By Pwanagba Agabus, Jos
The Plateau Peace Building Agency (PPBA) on Monday said working closely in a systematic fashion with conflict parties and ordinary community people would go a long way in producing the kind of outcomes the the agency so desired, hence the need for decentralisation of its roles.
This was disclosed by the PPBA Director General, Mr. Joseph Lengman, while giving his welcome remarks at Plateau Peace Architecture Forum, with the theme: Strengthening the Coordination and Decentralisation Roles of the Plateau State Peace Building Agency at the State and Local Government levels’, held in Jos, the State Capital.
Lengman said, “It is on record that our state has gone through some disturbing episodes of violence in the recent past. To this day, it appears, we are still reeling from, or haunted by a gory past that left a deep-seated feeling of hate, distrust and mutual suspicion amongst our people.
“The scar on our psyche is real. And the inability of this wound to heal continues to undermine genuine efforts at repairing the broken social fabric of our society and jeopardizing further the modest achievements recorded in our collective drive towards changing the narrative from violence to Peace.
“The rising incidents of a well-coordinated attack and counter-attack in some communities across Riyom, Bassa and Jos North Local Government areas within the last two weeks,’ reveals a bigger picture among other things of how the untreated legacies of internecine violence’, he lamented.
“The nefarious activities of war merchants and criminals, and coupled with several unresolved issues of conflict is slowly reversing the gains both government and non-state actors have achieved in a society that suffered the brunt of ethno-religious crisis for many years”, he decried.
“This systematic attempt to derail our Peacebuilding effort by war merchants must be resisted by all men and women of good conscience”, Lengman admonished.
“While security agencies are encouraged to step up their operations to put an end to these attacks it is however pertinent to note also, that tackling this growing spate of insecurity in our state and nation at large has now become a collective responsibility that no citizen can afford to take with laxity”, he maintained.
“The stakes are high and we must resolve to collectively confront the monster that is shaking and tearing down the walls of our society, lest we all perish as fools. I remain confident that the outcome of today’s event will help layout the groundwork for a robust and systematic response that put or empower local communities at the center of peacebuilding initiatives.
He recalled that since the establishment of the Peace Agency, by Governor Simon Lalong, in 2016, “we have engaged with different stakeholders as part of a deliberate effort to find enduring solutions to the myriads of Peace and security challenges facing our beloved state”.
According to him, “From lessons learnt, it is our firm belief that the success of our work requires a multi-dimensional approach; a deliberate and a well-facilitated process that guides our transitioning from the state of negative to positive Peace. And that is why in the last five years, PPBA has carried out series of Peace advocacy; sensitization campaigns as well as facilitated several dialogue sessions between and amongst different conflict parties at different levels across the state.
“Some of the dialogues often organized in conjunction with other non-governmental organizations have yielded positive results as evident by the fact that conflict parties that hitherto fought each other agreed to come together, talk to one another by stating their grievances or issues and in some cases, commit to even signing what we refer to as the ‘Expression of Commitment to Peace’ document”, he maintained.
“Yet, beyond both our peacebuilding activities as well as the traditional role of security agencies in securing lives and property, we believe that working closely and in a systematic fashion with conflict parties and ordinary community people would go a long way in producing the kind of outcomes we so desire to see”, he explained.
“Again, this underscores the importance of shifting focus and attention to building or strengthening localized and highly inclusive peacebuilding structures, where stakeholders at the grass root take ownership as opposed to placing premium on mere ad hoc security arrangements.
He further stated that, “In executing our mandate within the last five years we also discovered some gaps and lapses. One of such is the lack of a proper coordination of the players working in the Plateau state peacebuilding arena. As part of our effort to address this gap therefore, we chose today’s theme: Strengthening Coordination Role and Decentralization of the Plateau Peace Building Agency at the State and Local Government Levels”.
“This is very apt considering the strategic importance of institutionalizing conflict prevention and peacebuilding beyond our state capital”, he stressed.
“While one of the overarching mandates of the PPBA is to coordinate activities of actors working in this sector, however this important aspect of our function can only be realized where there exists a seamless coordination framework that enables both state and non-state actors to be on the same page.
According to the Director General, “What coordination therefore means to us is not only a matter of knowing who is doing what, where and how but that efforts at the local level are properly streamlined in ways that avoid duplication of structures and peace initiatives by different players with little or no results to show for it.
“In this light, our idea is geared toward enhancing our interventions in ways that allow us to measure impact or track down progress.
“The second variable in our theme for this forum ‘decentralization’ is one that is of equal, if not great importance, to the overall objective for which the PPBA was created. Simply put, the PPBA is using this forum to set parameters for the development and operationalization of what we call Community Peace Architecture Forum(C-PAF) at the district levels.
“The PPAF, while serving as a platform upon which conflict prevention and Peace initiatives will be coordinated at the state level, the duplication of a similar structure at the district Level-Community Peace Architecture Forum would also be a viable platform for mitigating or addressing potentially dangerous conflict situations in our communities”, Lengman stressed.
The Director General commiserated with the families and communities that have come under attacks by marauding gunmen and prayed for the repose of the souls of all those that lost their lives in the unfortunate incident.
The meeting had in attendance, traditional rulers, civil society groups, community leaders, among others.