Insecurity: As search for peace begins…

Today, Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa, is battling with serious security challenges across its regions, while there are industrial acrimonies in some of its establishments. These have resulted in countless killings, kidnappings and industrial actions. But will peace salvage the situation? TOPE SUNDAY writes.

The level of insecurity in the country is well-pronounced. There is banditry in the North-west and North-central; Boko Haram in the North-east, militancy in the South-south, while South-west and South-east are clamouring for secession. At the government and private establishments, there is a serious industrial disharmony among the workers.

According to a report by an international rights organisation, Global Rights Nigeria, 1, 603 Nigerians were killed in the first quarter of 2021. The report tagged: ‘Violent Incidents Report: January 2021,’ attributed the killings to “mass atrocities across the country between January and March 2021.

It stated that there has been a harvest of abductions, insecurity of security officers, ethnic/communal tensions, unending terrors, and others, which have worsened the insecurity situation across the country, and pointed out that banditry alone claimed 906 lives, which made it the highest cause of killings in the country and followed by Boko Haram attacks claiming 207 lives in Nigeria while kidnapping recorded 1, 774 abductees within the period under review.

Also, in October 2020, while speaking at the court’s legal year, the president of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Justice Benedict Kanyip, revealed that a total number of 6, 095 cases were pending in its docket and identified Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan as areas with the highest caseload, noting that filing of cases reduced owing to Covid-19 pandemic.

“Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, to be specific, as of March 13, 2020, I had called for the figures of pending cases in court. The figures revealed that the court had 6, 596 cases in its docket across the country, with Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Ibadan leading in that order in terms of the caseload.

“Today, the total number of cases that are pending are 6,095. This means that 501 cases were disposed of between March 13 and September 30, 2020.

The ceasefire message

To find a lasting solution to the teething problems, the director-general of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Dr. Bakut T. Bakut, said the institute has concluded arrangements with some stakeholders to achieve a ‘ceasefire’ or ‘silent the guns’ in some Nigerian communities.

Bakut, while speaking with journalists to herald this year’s International Peace Day in Abuja, also called on all Nigerians to work assiduously to return peace to the country and advocated the observation of a ceasefire by combatants or parties in violent conflict, and urged them to embrace peace.

 He disclosed that the institute was working with stakeholders to advocate and sensitise parties in violent conflict across the country on the need to observe a ceasefire and adopt a non-violent approach to resolve conflict.

To achieve this, he stated that five of the institute’s newly created peace-building zonal offices would be fully engaged in their various locations on the Day.

“The Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), which usually celebrates the Peace Day in collaboration with diverse stakeholders, is once again working with partners to advocate and sensitize parties in violent conflict across the country on the need to observe a ceasefire and adopt a non-violent approach to the resolution of conflict.

“Many of the stakeholders drawn from the security sector, civil society groups, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and development partners are leveraging the various ongoing  peace-building programmes in communities to achieve a ‘ceasefire’ or ‘silent the guns,’” he said.

Peace desks in MDAs, agencies, others to the rescue?

To reduce the number of court cases at the workplace, Bakut, while addressing stakeholders recently in Abuja, announced the intention of the institute to establish peace desks in government’s ministries, agencies and parastatal to re-build the culture of peace, and to cement the relationship between trade unions and management.

He recalled that the lack of peaceful working relationship between government and trade unions had resulted in revenue loss, brain drains, among other losses, stating that the peace desk initiative was aimed at minimizing the upsurge of labour related conflicts in workplaces.

 Bakut, who spoke through a director in his office, Barrister Gabriel Jiya, said: “…In addition, records have shown that the lack of peaceful working relationship between government and trade unions as well as between professional trade unions have resulted in consistent frictions with attendant monumental loss of revenue, brain drain, capital flight, drop in standard of education and related economic failures. As a result, intra and inter professional trade union wrangling have become pronounced in our health and other tertiary institutions leading to unending disagreements among the trade unions, managements of institutions and individual workers.

“In view of the above and the urgent need to galvanize our workplaces and the future of the Nigerian society into a cohesive and peaceful state devoid of violence, the institute conceptualized this initiative that is aimed at mainstreaming peace into workplaces, development programmes and projects through establishment of workplace peace-desks in our agencies, ministries and in organised private sectors in Nigeria. Interestingly, I would like to inform you that IPCR is at the verge of developing the ‘Peace Desk ’policy contents that would enable her to establish and nurture the same in various agencies.”

Why workplace peace desk?

Speaking on the importance of the Peace Desk in workplaces, a deputy director, Research, Internal Conflict at the IPCR, Mr. Andy Nkemneme, said peace is very useful for workplaces to boost the morale of workers for ultimate productivity that would bring about the development of the establishment.

“Peace is known to be the most basic need and desire of every living being (man and animal). Peace is to a development personnel; what screwdriver is to a construction engineer. Peace is useful in the workplace for high staff morale, competitive work environment, enhanced productivity and sustainable development. It is the most treasurable thing required by every being to exist, live, grow and flourish or expand. Any space that is devoid of peace is not habitable.

“The Peace Desk is also intended to identify and intervene in areas where there are structural and institutional labour conflict indicators such as some disputable and unfavourable provisions in our formal systems that instigate conflicts. You will recall that some development programmes and projects carried out by some agencies lead to conflicts during which some fatalities are recorded on either side of the divide.

“Perennial conflicts in our institutions of learning between various stakeholders have sort of institutionalised conflicts in the system that have enhanced the socialization of some staff and students towards violence and aggression rather than peaceful coexistence. As a result, many work systems from public organisations to private sectors and communities pave ways for bickering and conflicts. Over the years, it has been noted that there seems to be a strong relationship between loss of trust among the various stakeholders in the workplaces and communities due to perennial and multilateral conflicts. The unabated strikes and incessant withdrawals of services by workers at various levels of work are heightened by this lack of trust and the attendant intolerance.

“In the past few years, workplaces in Nigeria have not only suffered from consistent inter and intra personal and labour conflicts but have also borne the severe burdens of ceaseless industrial actions concurrently recorded in various sectors of the country. Available records revealed that Nigerian Universities were on strike for a cumulative period of three years between 1999 and 2020. Nigeria lecturers have gone on strike 15 times since 1999,” he said.