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Sunday, 22 September 2019

‘You need to be truthful’ — presidency faults UN report on violence

‘You need to be truthful’ — presidency faults UN report on violence

Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, says the report of violence released by Agnes Callamard, the United Nations’ rapporteur after her visit to Nigeria left out important details.

In a statement released on Friday in Abuja, the presidential aide said the report was silent on inter-group and community violence in the country; making it easier to blame the federal government.

At the end of her 12-day mission to Nigeria, Callamard had said: “Nigeria is a pressure cooker of internal conflicts and generalised violence that must be addressed urgently, with issues like poverty and climate change adding to the crisis.

“The overall situation that I encountered in Nigeria gives rise to extreme concern.

“We have read press reports of the UN rapporteur on violence in Nigeria.

“While we agree that the violence in Nigeria, or in any country, is a major concern and that there is a rippling effect, we are disappointed that the rapporteur was silent on intra-group violence.

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“In Benue, Taraba, Cross River States and many parts of the country, most of the casualties result from intra-group, inter-group and community violence.

“Many of the displaced persons across the nation are also victims of these conflicts.

“There is absolutely no doubt that violence between farmers and herders, which has a long history in our country spiked in recent years but the effectiveness with which the Federal and State authorities responded made a big difference.”

Shehu added that calm had virtually returned to all parts affected by the peculiar violence.

“Therefore, we are saddened that the rapporteur did not address intra-ethnic conflicts and cattle rustling as key elements in herder/farmer conflicts.”

He maintained that ignoring the salient issues would not help to solve the problem, saying “if you are going to address violence and the general insecurity in Nigeria, incidents everywhere should be part of the narrative.

“He said failure to address this might make it easier to blame the federal government but national peace and security is a community-based and collective responsibility.”

Shehu opined that arrests, prosecution and locking people up were only small parts of national security and safety strategy.

“In Benue State, the work of a U.S. scholar of Tiv extraction, Prof. Dick Adzenge deserves special mention for attempting to get aspects of violence addressed.

“The expectation that arresting and putting people in prison is the only credible response to violence is a mistake.

“Prof. Adzenge and a few others like him are working with young people, traditional rulers and communities to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts and encourage peaceful co-existence.

“The sort of effort we are talking about here has so far revealed interesting facts about the problem in Benue State that cannot be ignored.

“And it is the sort of support we seek from the UN rapporteur in reporting, not the report that scratches the surface of the subject then ends up blaming the government under the able leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The UN representative needs to be truthful and even-handed in her assignment.”

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