By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
More than 30 communities in the southern part of Plateau state have committed to end years of violence and hostilities that have claimed hundreds of lives and property worth millions of Naira.
The peace was brokered by the Geneva, Switzerland-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), an independent mediation organisation, dedicated to helping improve global response to armed conflict. It has been mediating in the inter-communal disputes in Plateau and Kaduna states.
In an agreement, signed on Thursday in Shendam, the communities spread across six local government areas of Langtang North, Langtang South, Mikang, Qua’an Pan, Shendam and Wase local government areas, resolved to bury the hatchet and live in peace with one another irrespective of tribe or religious differences.
‘The Southern Plateau Peace Declaration’, as it was tagged, was witnessed by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, W. Stuart Symington, his German counterpart, Ambassador Bernhard Schlagheck, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, Transition Committee Chairmen of the six local government councils, traditional rulers and member representing Wase Federal Constituency, Idris Majei, amongst others.
Lalong, who was elated by the development, said the state had enjoyed relative peace in the two years of his administration, which had enabled him concentrate on delivering democracy dividends to the people.
He told the communities that by continuously engaging in crisis, money meant for development would be diverted into private pockets in the guise of security votes, adding that he was amazed at billions of naira siphoned by the previous administration and when he made inquiries he was told that they were expended on security.
While commending HD for their efforts in southern zone, the governor recalled that the organisation had achieved similar feat in the northern zone where it worked with Afizere, Anaguta, Berom, Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, South-south and the Yoruba communities, which had resulted in peaceful co-existence in the Northern senatorial zone.
He said, “I must say that the peace process has laid the ground for strong foundations, upon which more effective long-term work in peace building, will logically develop and progress,” adding that it was for this reason that he established the Plateau Peace Agency.
The US ambassador said that his country was interested in peace on the Plateau because Nigeria was an important partner that the US could not ignore.
Chairman of the occasion, Ribadu, recalled with nostalgia how many people had loved to live in Plateau because of the serene environment and expressed hope that those days would return.
The lead mediator and HD Country Director, Mrs. Alice Nderitu, in her welcome address, said that the signing of the agreement was not an end in itself, but the beginning of the peace process.
She said that HD sought to improve the practice of mediation and strengthen capacity within the community of mediators, adding that in that respect, the organisation carried out an extensive programme of support activities, which include providing advice as well as staff and logistics to others mediating in armed conflicts.