The government of the United Kingdom has warned that the 2023 general elections may not hold in Nigeria if the current spate of violence and insecurity continues.
The Director, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in the United Kingdom, Chris Beecroft made the submission yesterday during the launch of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative (PISI) in Abuja.
Beecroft identified active insurgency in the North East; farmers-herders conflicts which are extending across the country, resource conflicts in the Niger Delta, the tension in the South-East and banditry in the North West as some of the major challenges.
The UK government official however said a solution is definitely possible but requires all stakeholders to work together.
He noted that while the military and the police need to be strengthened, the solution to Nigeria’s security challenge does not lie in that alone but in reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and access to justice as well.
He said: “We are at a critical juncture in Nigeria’s journey, and now is an important moment for new thinking and action to build a more peaceful future for all Nigerians.
“The Foreign, Common-wealth and Development Office values our relationship with the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, and have supported the NGF through our programs, including SPARC, PERL and most recently the Technical Assistance provided in framing the Peace and Inclusive Security initiative, PISI.
“Nigeria faces significant peace and security challenges. There is an active insurgency in the North East; farmer-herder conflicts are extending across the country; resource conflicts in the Delta; tension in the South-East; and banditry in the North West. The rise in conflict risks destabilizing Nigeria’s democracy in the run-up to the 2023 elections.
“Conflict destroys lives, destroys livelihoods, destroys hope and ambition for the future. Conflict represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development.
‘’The police and army are in urgent need of reform-but the solution to Nigeria’s instability does not lie in simply strengthening the police and army-but rather in building an effective social contract, building federal, state, local and community level infrastructure to manage conflict; and in giving young people jobs and opportunities so they have a stake in a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria.
‘’Injustice and impunity, weak Justice institutions, the proliferation of small arms and weapons, the weaponization of social media, are all drivers of conflict and instability. But with the right commitment, dedication, and support, there are solutions.
“The UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO, recognizes the important role NGF plays in setting the peace and security agenda, building state-level and community level structures and institutions to reduce violence and respond to conflict and insecurity across Nigeria.
“The FCDOis keen to continue its collaboration with and support for the government of Nigeria in its efforts to deal with the mounting insecurity. The UK is pleased to have been able to support this initiative and is committed to continuing working with the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, in advancing its peace and security agenda.
“The UK is engaged in supporting Nigeria to reduce violent conflict in a number of areas; we promote a regional response in the North East and Lake Chad Basin through our contribution to the Regional Stabilisation Facility, RSF, and delivery of programs on peacebuilding, humanitarian assistance, protection of civilians, human development, good governance, and accountability.
‘’All our programming, whether focused on health, education, economic growth, or governance, works to reduce the risk of violent conflict and support peace-building infrastructure.
“Peace and stability will be achieved when the causes of conflict in society are managed through strong, fair, and responsive governance mechanisms, whether at community, state, or federal level.
‘’The use of the police and army will always be only part of the solution. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and access to justice – all vital components of a vibrant, resilient, and effective social contract.”
Also speaking at the launch, Chairman of NGF and Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country had also worsened the security challenges in the country and increased the level of violence and fatalities from crime.
According to him, between May 2011 and February 2021, over 76,000 deaths were reported by the press and tracked by the Nigeria Security Tracker, NST – project of the Council on Foreign Relations, Africa program, which documents violence in Nigeria.
In the words of Fayemi, ‘’Today’s event heralds an important milestone for the Forum as we seek to build a more inclusive and collaborative platform to drive an urgent country-wide response to the security challenges our country is facing.
“Nigeria is still at the crossroads. One of the key areas where there is an urgent need for consensual action today is security governance, given the escalation in the spate of violence and coordinated criminal activities that have undermined government authority and waned public trust in recent times.
‘’The level of insecurity across parts of the country is not only eroding citizens’ safety and people’s means of livelihood, but it is also threatening the expression of the rights of all Nigerians.