As Plateau commemorates twenty years of the eruption of high-intensity violence in the state, critical stakeholders have called for a more collaborative approach and concerted efforts from both state and non-state actors in dealing with the proximate and remote causes of the conflict in the state.
Plateau State has been bedeviled by sectarian violence since it erupted on Friday, September 7, 2001, in the city. For two decades, the violence has spread to other parts of the state which climaxed with an imposition of a State of Emergency by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2006.
Stakeholders who converged on Jos, the state capital, Tuesday, at an event organized by the Plateau Peace Building Agency, PPBA, with the theme “Our Plateau; Our Shared Experiences” unanimously agreed that for the state to forge ahead, it must be willing to forgive the past as a way of healing and reconciliation.
While delivering the opening remark, Director-General, Plateau Peace Building Agency, PPBA, Mr. Joseph Lengmang noted that when the violence erupted in 2001, he was the President, Students Union Government (SUG) of the University of Jos and had to engage students at various levels in order to douse tension and calm frayed nerves.
According to Lengmang, the last twenty years have been one that is not only challenging but that has taught the people some very vital lessons that should be used in shaping the future of the state.
In his words: “we must decide the kind of peace that we want for ourselves as a people and then work hard to ensure that we do not bequeath a legacy of violence and chaos to the generation coming behind us”.
“Therefore, people must be sincere in addressing the very issues that engender the conflict in the very first instance so that we can make headway. People have to be sincere with themselves in dealing with the issues. So long as people are not sincere when engaging with the issues, we will keep going round in circles”, Lengmang added.
On his part, the Gbong Gwom Jos and Chairman Plateau State Traditional Council of Chiefs and Emirs, His Royal Majesty Da Jacob Gyang Buba called on Plateau youths and community leaders in the state to unite across ethnic and religious divides to end the circle of killings in the state.
The monarch asserted that the attacks and killings in the State had lingered due to the inability of young people to put aside their ethnic and religious differences to promote peaceful coexistence.
The traditional ruler, who insisted that no tribe in the state can exist in isolation, called on young people to take the lead in promoting love and togetherness.
Also speaking, the representative of the United States Institute of Peace, USIP, supporters of the event, Dr. Chris Kwaja, commended PPBA for organizing the event which he said was aimed at entrenching peace in Plateau State.
Kwaja further advised that beyond dialogue, the government should invest more in peacebuilding rather than the present arrangement where security gulps a large chunk of the country’s budget.
He also urged the government and the security agencies to intensify the arrest and prosecution of criminals stressing that the criminal justice administration in Nigeria should be strengthened to deal with issues of conflict and to serve as a deterrent to others.
In their separate remarks, The Co-Chairmen of the Plateau State Inter-Religious Council, IRC, Rev. Prof. Pandang Yamsat, former President, Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) and the Emir of Wase and Plateau State Chairman, Jama’atul Nasril Islam, JNI, Alhaji Muhammad-Sambo Haruna respectively disclosed that the IRC has already earmarked series of activities that would engage various stakeholders across the state in the coming weeks in a bit to find lasting solutions to the problem that has plagued the state in the last twenty years.
They maintained that the protracted violence was due to the insincerity of leaders, political gladiators and the high rate of drug and substance abuse amongst the youth.
They then called on the government to create an enabling environment for the youth to be gainfully engaged and be productive.
The meeting had in attendance critical stakeholders from Jos North, Bassa, Riyom, INGOs, NGOs, CBOs and other non-state actors working in the Peacebuilding spectrum in Plateau State.