UK Lawmakers Recommend Antidotes to Stop Killings in Nigeria

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Tobi Soniyi

The United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) has come up with strategies the federal government can adopt to stop the seemingly unstoppable killings in Nigeria.

APPG, a group of over 100 British parliamentarians from different political parties and from both Houses of Parliament, exists to promote Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The declaration states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

In a 56-page report titled, ‘Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide? An Inquiry by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief’, the group advised the federal government to adopt new strategies that they considered would reduce the carnage.

They advised the federal government to invest in research to determine the causes of the killings and stop making policy based on assumptions.

They said: “Competing narratives about the causes of this conflict abound. In order to develop and effectively implement appropriate policy responses to the conflict, it is vital to have a better, shared understanding of the situation. There is also a need to review existing programmes and policies which impact the conflict.

“Therefore, the Nigerian Government should support domestic and international academics, NGOs and journalists, through providing funding and security, to conduct more extensive research and to collect data about attacks.

“Better data can help improve policy responses and help develop a shared
understanding of the situation. The development of a database from which to determine patterns and early indicators of violence would also be an important step in improving
security responses.”

According to them, the federal government needs to invest in research on constitution, practice, and strategies of criminal gangs and ‘conflict
entrepreneurs.’

Nevertheless, the lawmakers said they recognised the unique and significant financial, social and political challenges that ‘Nigeria faces and thus do not expect that implementing these recommendations will be easy but hope that they will be of use to the Nigerian Government in their own plans to reduce conflict.”

They also advised the government to review the existing structure of cattle routes and reserves.

They said: “In concert with state and local governments, the federal government should conduct a comprehensive review of the existing structures providing for cattle routes and reserves to determine which aspects are working and what challenges remain to be addressed.”

They also suggested that current program on nomadic education be reviewed. They advised the federal government to partner with state and local governments to undertake a comprehensive review of the nomadic education program.

“The process should include extensive participation of representatives from the herder community to ensure it reflects the expectation of herders in terms of timing and the realization of the key objectives of providing quality education and training on modern herding”, they added.

In order to properly tackle the conflict, the lawmakers said there was a need to implement a strategy that “incorporates all the complex different factors upon which the conflict is predicated.”

They warned that attempts to deal with contributory factors in isolation would be limited and so holistic plans should be adopted.
They said: “For there to be peace in Nigeria, there must be justice. Thus, to reduce conflict, it is vital to both improve security responses and ensure that perpetrators of violence are held accountable.”
However, President Muhammadu Buhari had rejected the lawmakers’ report especially the allegation that there was genocide against Christians in the country.

In a statement on Friday, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said Boko Haram insurgents had targeted Christians because they knew it would drive religious tensions in the country.

Shehu said the Buhari administration was committed to addressing these challenges and had already begun taking measures.

“The president and government of Nigeria wish to thank members of the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief for their report, launched a few days ago,” he said.

“Although it is difficult reading, the statement also acknowledges the importance of accurate, unbiased, depoliticised and truthful information when it comes to understanding the realities and addressing the challenges for those of faith in Nigeria.

“In this regard when uncritical attention is afforded to critics with dubious intentions, it only becomes harder for both the government and people of Nigeria to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve our differences, and uphold what is enshrined in our constitution and laws: that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

“In concert with our American and British allies, Nigeria’s military have pushed back the terrorists and largely reduced their capacity over the last five years compared to the previous decade.

“Boko Haram have targeted Christians and Churches specifically because they know it drives forward religious and land tensions already existent in the country. Similarly, they attack mosques and Muslims in order to issue the threat: radicalise, or become targets yourselves.”
End