By Oluyinka Fadare
Lagos – Leaders of ethnic and socio-political groups have agreed to continue in engaging one another to prevent conflict and ensure peaceful co-existence.
The groups said this in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos after the groups’ training with the theme: “Engaging the media, community-based groups for peace building and conflict prevention”.
The participants urged the Federal Government to intensify the mopping up of illegal weapons across the country and initiate the process for continuous dialogue by the people.
They promised to strengthen and promote a national working group for peace and conflict building across the country.
Speaking at the training programme, Assistant Commissioner of Police Akinbayo Olasoji said that crises in Nigeria had continuously been promoted by greed and the self-serving interests of some religious, political and community leaders.
He commended the coming together of young ethnic leaders in choosing to address the problems of conflict in the country.
Also, the leader of the African Conflict Prevention and Peace Network, Mr Sina Odugbemi, said that it was necessary to study the environment thoroughly to sustain peace.
“The flow of arms and the threats to stability in Nigeria cannot be resolved unless we have a deep understanding of the proliferation of arms.
“Nigeria is surrounded by French-speaking countries; the free flow of movement of people in that area is an indication that Nigeria will remain unsafe unless there is a strong and effective border,” Odugbemi said.
Also, the Vice-President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) Mr Tijani Suleiman, said: “As a people we have the responsibility to work towards peaceful co-existence.
“Violence is an ill-wind that blows no-one any good; we can make the choice to chose the part of honour by preventing conflict in Nigeria”.
The President of Agbekoya– a Yoruba group– Chief Adekunle Oshodi, said his group was excited to participate in a forum initiated for stakeholders in conflict in which the people are the drivers of the process.
The groups observed that ordinary people were worried about the spate of violence in some parts of the country and bringing an end to crises could be achieved when the people realise that they are the main actors.
Retired Col. Tony Nyiam, one of the participants, said that one of the most crucial ways of preventing conflict was for the people to engage themselves out of their own freewill.
“Nigerians want to live in peace. There is no-one that would prefer conflict to peace. What we have seen is a situation where platforms for conflict prevention are lacking while the leaders run up and down to douse the fire when it is too late.
“The best way to prevent conflict is through active and robust engagement among the stakeholders.
“Conflict that is addressed at its budding stage is unlikely to mature while those left unattended to lead to chaos and violence,” Nyiam said.
The representative of the Ford Foundation, Mrs Onyinye Onyemobi, said that the involvement of young people in the conflict prevention training was an impressive initiative.
Present at the training were leaders of Miyetti Allah, Oodua Peoples Congress, Oodua Nationalist Coalition, Igbo Youth Council and the Indigenous Middle Belt Peoples Congress.
Also, the Arewa Youth Consultative Council, National Council of Iteskiri Youths, Agbekoya, Borno Youth Coalition and the Ijaw National Congress, among others, were present at the training.
Some civil society groups working on conflict and peace building also attended the event.