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Ending Violence in Nigeria

05 Apr 2013

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Policy & Execution By Atiku Abubakar

As the former Vice-President of Nigeria, I am deeply pained by the latest surge of violence and the aggressive approach taken by terrorists operating in our country.  I am greatly concerned that the Northern region, to which the people of Nigeria and the sub-continent have flocked for centuries, has now become associated with routine, highly organised violent attacks on innocents.
There is a great need by both local and international stakeholders to better understand the dynamics behind such senseless killing especially when many Northern elders, politicians, and clerics who have spoken out against these senseless acts of violence have lost their lives.

Furthermore, businesses in the North are shutting down or moving South; some forced to relocate away from sensitive areas. Extremely disturbing are reports that the few factories in the North that had previously continued to brave historically high production and energy costs, have, as a result of the violence, cut their operations in half or completely shut down. The unprecedented economic cost, however, does not even begin to reflect the social and psychological costs of the violence.
I am deeply worried that while there has been a marked drop in bomb attacks on churches and some reduction in the violence in the North-east, there remains an under-reported escalation in the terrorist activity for residents of commercial centres such as Kano and Maiduguri.

The dire situation is marked by the unprecedented attacks on royal fathers, the unspeakable murder of vaccination teams and foreign doctors in Kano and Potiskum and the tragic slaughter of seven foreigners abducted in Bauchi in late February.
My sorrow extends to the families of the hundreds of the dead, the orphaned, widowed and wounded in atrocities such as last week’s suicide attacks on a major Kano bus station, as well as of the many defenceless who continue to be murdered in Kano and Maiduguri streets by gun wielding ‘men’.
No amount of poverty, joblessness or personal distress can possibly justify such coldblooded, organised murder of fellow helpless human beings.
I wish to call for a deeper inquiry into the actual motivation driving the actions of these criminals as well as an exploration of options and conditions other than the use of force or dragnet arrests.

In addition to a descent into more wanton, irrational attacks on innocents, the worsening levels of kidnapping, armed robbery, marine piracy and other crimes, around the country indicate a need for more effective deployment of scarce security resources.
In the process of identifying the perpetrators, I will continue to counsel against the shameful and disheartening rush to judgment based on ethnic, regional or religious hatred rather than on concrete and verifiable evidence.

I am alarmed at the persistence of innuendo and unsubstantiated pronouncements by high officials of state against Northerners and whole communities.
I have therefore called on all Nigerians to reject the repeated appeal to parochialism and incitement of hatred by the terrorists and others - to create a unified voice against the violence that is destroying our lives.

I call on the Nigerian government to heed the words of security experts, scholars and academics as well as international friends of Nigeria. They have routinely advised for a more holistic and transparent approach to dealing with Nigeria’s ‘home grown’ insurgency.
Continuing down the current road may yield short-term results as suspects are killed or contained but the lack of transparency amongst our security organisations continues to undermine any confidence that the long-term interests of all Nigerians are being served.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria declares very clearly that the welfare and security of the people is the responsibility of the Federal Government.  However, the government seems to prefer to denigrate even the smallest glimmer of hope for any form of negotiated solution, with or without conditions that appear. Powerful and bloodthirsty interests seem intent on maintaining the current state of affairs.

It is incumbent upon all of us in positions of leadership to explore additional options that are comprised of thoughtful and constructive mechanisms for bringing an end to the slaughter. Any such solutions should I believe, seek to discourage a culture of impunity for wanton killings and the spilling of innocent blood on all sides.

In addition to the state’s responsibility to its citizens, the Nigerian people have responsibilities to each other.  This is what has made the Nigerian family strong. Nigerians must not lose sight of this enduring fact: that despite the challenges, our future as one united country filled with hope, opportunity and compassion for each other is possible.

*Alhaji Abubakar, the Turaki Adamawa, is Nigeria’s former vice-president

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