Eleven widely-known senior Nigerians from various sectors of the society, concerned at the situation in Nigeria, on Tuesday called on state governors to be proactive in seeking solutions to the problems of conflict and poverty.

In a statement issued under the umbrella of The Senior Working Group, they observed that the current state of Nigeria reflects a hotbed of internal conflicts that threaten the sovereignty and legitimacy of the nation-state.

“The Biafra agitations in the southeast, rising communal violence across the country, the Boko Haram crisis raging in the northeast, and the surge in armed robbery and kidnappings are tall tale signs of fragility within the security apparatus of the country,” they warned.

They said the fragility of the north, particularly the northeast, in terms of the measure of its human development manifests around issues such as high illiteracy, high unemployment rates, and above all, the highest levels of inequality and poverty.

To that end, they urged cooperation among Northerners towards solving common problems, saying state governors, in particular, must be willing to reach out to neighboring governors and begin to deliberate on common policies that address common setbacks.

Members of the group are the Sultan of Sokoto, Amirul Mumineen Sultan Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar III, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, General Martin Luther Agwai (rtd.), Amb. Fatima Balla, Dr. Usman Bugaje, Amb. Ibrahim Gambari, Dr. Nguyan Feese, Dr.  Jibrin Ibrahim, Mrs. Aisha Murtala Muhammed Oyebode, Dr. Chris Kwaja, and Dr. Attahiru Jega.

In the statement, headlined “For the Well-Being of Nigerians,” they said the governors must also institutionalize early warning mechanisms in collaboration with civic actors and community-based organizations that can flag potential conflicts, and adequately inform government so they can prepare to respond, and in some cases, prevent conflict.

“Joint ventures should be encouraged and already existing organisations, networks and institution, such as the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) and the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), owned by the 19 northern states and with the mission to promote socio-economic transformation, should be welcomed, reinvigorated and strengthened because they seek to foster solutions for the well-being of all Nigerians.”

John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja Diocese

 

Full text of the statement:

‘FOR THE WELL-BEING OF NIGERIANS’

The current state of Nigeria reflects a hotbed of internal conflicts that threaten the sovereignty and legitimacy of the nation-state. The Biafra agitations in the southeast, rising communal violence across the country, the Boko Haram crisis raging in the northeast, and the surge in armed robbery and kidnappings are tall tale signs of
fragility within the security apparatus of the country.

The drivers of these varying conflicts differ in nature, but find their remedy in the constitutional responsibility of the state i.e. the protection of lives and property, provision of education; in short, creating an enabling environment that safeguards the flourishing of citizens and those within its borders.

The Senior Working Group is made up of 11 Nigerians from civic, religious, academic, business, and other relevant sectors, working to support a strategic approach to addressing the sources of violent conflicts in the country.

The potential of Nigeria’s tremendous human and entrepreneurial strengths is yet to be fully realized. Instability continues to undermine the country’s potential for prosperity. The states’ weakness in effectively addressing these sources of instability perpetuates a cycle of reoccurring violent conflicts in communities across the

country, more often in northern Nigeria.

The fragility of the north, particularly the northeast, in terms of the measure of its human development manifests around issues such as high illiteracy, high unemployment rates, and above all, the highest
levels of inequality and poverty.

Although inequality persists across Nigeria; it presents a significant challenge in the north because this region contains 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states, occupies almost 70 percent of the landmass of the country, and is home to different ethnic and religious communities. This growing gap between the rich and poor, beyond poverty itself, generates anti-government sentiments that are easily manipulated to fuel civil unrest, and drive wedges between communities that have coexisted in the region for decades.

This, of course, indicates the lapses of the government over time in living up to its responsibilities, which has opened the floodgates for those challenging the legitimacy of the state to offer their own alternatives on how to ‘save the people’. The underlining narrative of Boko Haram is the offer of an alternative state that not only
postulates to be theologically legitimate but also seeks out the forgotten welfare of the people.

The cascading problems facing the north share a common thread that runs through all the 19 states. However, this common problem provides an opportunity for common solutions that reimagine inter-state cooperation and collaboration that identify failing public goods in order to provide joint solutions and offer the people greater
alternatives to competing narratives.

The north must work together to solve its common problems for the greater good of Nigeria; state governors particularly must be willing to reach out to neighboring governors and begin to deliberate on common policies that address common setbacks. They must also institutionalize early warning mechanisms in collaboration with civic actors and community-based organizations that can flag potential conflicts. In addition, these organizations can adequately inform government so they can prepare to respond, and in some cases, prevent
conflict. Joint ventures should be encouraged and already existing organizations, networks and institution, such as the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) and the New Nigeria Development Company
(NNDC), owned by the 19 northern states and with the mission to promote socio-economic transformation, should be welcomed, reinvigorated and strengthened because they seek to foster solutions for the well-being of all Nigerians.

Signed:
Amirul Mumineen Sultan Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar III (Sultan of Sokoto)
Cardinal John Onaiyekan
General Martin Luther Agwai (rt.)
Amb. Fatima Balla
Dr. Usman Bugaje
Amb. Ibrahim Gambari
Dr. Nguyan Feese
Dr.  Jibrin Ibrahim
Mrs. Aisha Murtala Muhammed Oyebode
Dr. Chris Kwaja
Dr. Attahiru Jega

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