by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
PLATEAU STATE – Irigwe and Fulani communities of Plateau State have (finally) signed a document on “Expression of Commitment of Peace.”
Speaking at the event, which held on Wednesday, in Nassau local government area of Plateau State, the state governor, Simon Lalong, stated that, “The Symbolic Signing of the Expression of Commitment of Peace Document, between the Irigwe and Fulani communities, speaks volumes about the efficacy of the approach in managing and transforming potentially-dangerous conflict situations in our state.”
The governor stressed that, “The nearly two-decade experience of violent conflicts between Irigwe and Fulani of Irigwe Chiefdom have given this administration sleepless nights. But yet, we never for once relented in our effort and desire to expand the frontiers of peace and security in those communities in particular and, the entire Bassa Local Government Area in general.”
He said, at the peak of the crisis sometimes, in August last year, he had met twice and separately with leadership of Irigwe and Fulani in his official residence with a view to broker peace and reconciliation between them.
“I had another meeting with both parties alongside other critical stakeholders from other neighboring LGAs in our bid to put to an end to the perennial conflicts in the Bassa Local Government Area.”
According to him, his personal involvement in the mediation of these conflicts was hinged on the ongoing interventions of both the Plateau State Peace Building Agency and the State Inter-Religious Council, who have worked closely with other stakeholders, including external actors, to bring peace and stability in communities ravaged by internecine conflicts.
He noted that, “Series of multi-level and multilayered engagements with community elders, youth and women leaders of Irigwe and Fulani were held and facilitated by the Peace Building Agency often in close collaboration with local NGOs and international partners to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude for their consistent support and investment in peace.
“Several dialogue sessions, capacity building trainings, consultations and peace advocacy went into the process with the leadership of ethnic associations like the Irigwe Development Association (IDA); the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN); the Gan Allah Fulani Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN), amongst so many others.
“The first article in the Peace Document, which clearly states that, “Having realized that both parties, Irigwe and Fulani, have suffered losses, destructions to properties both movable and immovable such as cows, crops, goats, etc., and loss of human lives, the committee resolved to engage in total ceasefire and the need to forgive one another.
“It is, therefore, my sincere prayer that you pay attention to the latter part of that article, which states your ‘readiness to forgive one another,’ because it is only through genuine forgiveness that we can forge ahead as one people,” he stressed.
He said, “Commitment, consistency and determination to put this agreement together, regardless of the setbacks, is a clear demonstration of their passion for peace and stability,” and encouraged them to take full ownership of this Document.
“This agreement is the product of commitment between the Irigwe and Fulani communities, who decided to voluntarily find solutions to the recurring violence,” he stated.
He warned thus: “Let no one go around spreading false propaganda that the Government imposed any agreement on the two parties,” saying that, their role was purely to facilitate the process of engagement, which is well documented, and can be accessed for scrutiny.
The governor also made it clear that, “Despite the signing of this agreement, government will not shy away from wielding the big stick against any act of criminality within the area by any individual or groups, who will want to derail this ongoing peace process.”
He called on all leaders to rein in their subjects and followers through aggressive sensitization and enlightenment campaign on the need for both parties to be committed to the implementation of the terms of the agreement, adding, “Anyone, who insists in taking the laws into his hands or inciting violence, will be dealt with according to the law.
“For us, this document represents the basis for which all future interventions – whether by state or non-state actors in Bassa LGA – would be hinged upon. Therefore, we do not have to reinvent the wheels. Non-state actors are equally encouraged to coordinate with the Plateau State Peace Building Agency with a view to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts in those troubled communities,” Lalong stated.
He also called on all people to remain vigilant and security-conscious, “especially from those coming from elsewhere to cause havoc in our communities. We must work hand in gloves with relevant security agencies to keep our communities safe and habitable for all, irrespective of our differences.
“Plateau State is richly endowed with both human and material resources and a unique weather that is an attraction to investors and tourists. However, we can only maximize these potentials, if we build a peaceful and serene ambiance for the socio-economic development of our dear state,” the governor stated.