By Ebenezer Ishola
The wanton destruction of public assets in the violence that trailed the recent nationwide protests by the youth against police brutality has bolstered the Federal Government-led initiatives geared towards engendering peace and security in the country.
Ministry of Interior, on Tuesday, held Stakeholders’ Engagement on Internal Security and Conflict Resolution in Lagos State, with the purpose to strengthening peace and security in the aftermath of the destruction.
The Ministry engaged in consultations with the State Government, traditional rulers, civil society groups, religious institutions and youth groups on the need to adopt dialogue as key approach in channeling grievances and resolving conflicts.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu set the tone for the discussion, saluting the Federal Government for its commitment to restoring peace in troubled States. The Governor described initiative as “a deliberate effort” to address causes of crisis and nip violence in the bud.
Sanwo-Olu said the coordinated arson that trailed the EndSARS protests was a wake-up call to all citizens of the country and security organisations to be vigilant and collectively move against actions that could undermine the wellbeing and security of Nigeria.
The Governor pleaded with the citizens to allow the seed of peace being sown to germinate, while also stressing the need to re-establish communication link between the Government and the people in order to thwart tendencies of those he dubbed fifth columnists and conspiracy theorists bent on employing disinformation and misinformation to destabilise the State.
He said: “The level of insecurity being experienced across the nation calls for serious concern, considering its implication not only on the socio-economic development and prosperity of our people but also on the unity and territorial integrity of our nation. The importance of an effective strategy for peaceful resolution of conflict cannot be overemphasised.
“We have the opportunity today to share knowledge and ideas that could pre-empt crisis situations through conflict resolution mechanism. That incident through which extensive damage was wrecked on public infrastructure and private businesses, is a wakeup call to all well meaning individuals and organisations that we cannot afford to allow external forces or factors threaten or undermine our wellbeing and security
“We have to reignite the communication link between government and the people so that fifth columnists or conspiracy theorists will not be able to infiltrate and spread disinformation and misinformation that would jeopardise the future of our country or the opportunities available for our youths to contribute to the greatness of our country.”
Aregbesola said the forum was the third stakeholders’ engagement which the Ministry of Interior initiated to strengthen peace across the country.
The Minister said the Federal Government particularly had a responsibility to deepen peace and reduce conflicts in Lagos, which he described as the cradle of the black race.
The Government’s interest in security, Aregbesola pointed out, is selfish, adding that no development would be achieved in a situation of insecurity.
He said: “The main purpose of the ongoing drive is to create an atmosphere of peace for our development. We may not have attained the most secured state at the moment, we must not take what we have for granted.
The nature of insecurity we are witnessing today is not peculiar to Nigeria. The world is increasingly facing insecurity whose main causes are armed conflicts, terrorism, banditry, organised crimes, food shortages, natural disasters and epidemics among others.
“We have a responsibility to deepen peace and reduce conflicts that are peculiar to our nation. This will enable us to bring down the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) shelters dotting our land.”
Aregbesola also said it was time for the nation to fully harness the physical and intellectual energy of young people, who he described as “unique demographic”.
Dingyadi, who said the destruction witnessed in Lagos was painful, pointed out that the engagement couldn’t have come at a better time than now, noting that the State was in dire need of reconciliation, reconstruction and re-integration.
He said Lagos must be supported to achieve lasting peace in order to continue playing its “magnificent role” as the nation’s industrial centre.
“This dialogue will offer every community an opportunity to constructively add their input to the effort of sustaining peace and securing the country,” Dingyadi said.
The consultative forum moved into an executive session where discussions were held on ways out of the current situation.
The participants, in the 15-point communique issued after the meeting, called on the Federal Government to treat Lagos security as a national issue. The forum also called for increased intelligence gatherings by security agencies by working with neighbourhood security apparatus.
The resolution reads in part: “Government must move from the phase of advocacy on security improvement to the phase of action; restructuring of the Police Force must be a reflection of principles of true federalism.
“More attention should be paid to the youth, as they also have ideas that can assist in formulating better policies for Government. It is essential to create jobs for the youth in order to reduce social security challenges. However, Government must checkmate and identify young people engaging in destructive activities.
“Acquisition of adequate crowd control equipment and non-lethal weapons for management of civil protests and demonstrations. Reintroduction of value-driven programmes, such as Boys Scout, Girls Guild, in our schools to meaningfully engage young people.”
The consultative forum, held at Adeyemi Bero Auditorium in the Secretariat, Alausa, was graced by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, his Police Affairs counterpart, Maigari Dingyadi, frontline lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, service chiefs in Lagos and representative of Iyaloja General, Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo.
Also, political leaders in the State, members of Community Development Councils (CDCs), and Community Development Associations (CDAs) attended the meeting.