From Esther Akaa, Lafia
The “System and Structure Strengthening Approach against Radicalisation to Violent Extremism” (SARVE II) project implemented in Kogi and Nasarawa States by ActionAid Nigeria alongside her partners, Global Peace Development( GPD) and Beacon Youth Initiative ( BYI) in Nasarawa and Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development ( PIBCID) in Kogi with funding from the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) for a period of three years was informed by the need to decrease the vulnerability of at-risk young men and women to violent extremism, strengthen community systems and structures to address violent extremism, and create an enabling environment for preventing violent extremism among communities in the states.
The commencement of the second phase of the SARVE project implemented was necessitated by the impact and achievements recorded in the 1st phase of the project designed to systematically address the source of extreme restive violence that played out in Kogi State as a result of its numerous porous borders.
The SARVE I project which was earlier implemented in Kogi State provided an insight into the fundamental causes of the type of violence in the state and created a workable community driven solutions that prevented and addressed internal conflicts and general restiveness among youths in the state. This paved the way for the implementation of the SARVE II project in both Kogi and Nasarawa States.
Immediately after the launch of the SARVE II project in July, 2019 in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, ActionAid Nigeria alongside her partners, with funding from GCERF, trained 30 media professionals from Kogi and Nasarawa States on conflict sensitive reportage and counter narratives, as part of efforts in preventing and countering violent extremism. In addition, 39 radio programme episodes were held in Kogi,
Nasarawa, and the FCT to increase awareness on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) and peace building processes.
The main aim of the project was to build community resilience against violent extremism in 24 communities within 12 Local Government Areas in both states. The target groups of the project were: In- school Children (0-15 years), youths ( 15 -35 years), Women and men ( 36 years and above). Others were: Community, religious and opinion leaders as well as duty bearers/ Government officials (both local and state government).
At the close-out of the three years project in Nasarawa State and launch of the Nasarawa Youth Peace and Security Action Plan on the domestication of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 held on Monday in Lafia, the National Coordinator of GCERF, Yetunde Adegoke highlighted some of the successes and achievements of the SARVE II project in Nasarawa State. According to her, during the implementing period of the project, 500 youths were trained each year in order for them to become peace ambassadors in their communities.
“We found this to be a very effective way of engaging the youths and raising their awareness and understanding around some of these inter- cultural and religious drivers of violent extremism and we tried as much as possible to ensure that during that period of one week, the youths really got to understand their context in Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE). It actually gave them structures and links to be able to continue this work when they return to their communities. So, the peace ambassadors are one of the greatest achievements of the SARVE II project that we are very proud of and this was done in collaboration with our partners and fully supported by the Ministries of Youth and Sports Development, Women Affairs and Social Development, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Youth Council of Nigeria, among others. This provided a good sense of purpose to the teeming youths and encouraged them especially those who are currently not employed or very vulnerable to recruitment into Violent Extremism (VE).
“We have also seen ActionAid and GPD developed the Local Conflict Management Alliance ( LOCMA) and the State Conflict Management Alliance (SCOMA) in Nasarawa State for facts tracking on conflict prevention and scaling it up to other localities and providing instant true links to be able to make referrals up to the state level. We also worked together with the Community Actions and Response Team (CART) at the community level thus; we are looking for collaborations among the diverse parts of our communities.
“The project has also supported phone-in radio programmes, short videos, Peace summits, Peace walks and Cultural peace fiestas. All of these were aimed at engaging people at communities, LGAs and state level to create awareness around the emerging problem of violent extremism and also to work together, discuss and debate on ways of preventing it from spreading or happening from the first place.
“Another achievement is in the area of equal access to economic and social opportunities which we have seen very interesting development of cooperatives across the LGAs that we have worked in for women, men and youths. We are expecting that those cooperatives will grow in strength and will be replicated. The number that we were able to reach was limited but we are looking at how the modules developed can take these ideas up to be able to give access to economic and social opportunities further and spread beyond the project,” Adegoke added.
The GCERF National Coordinator, therefore, called on Nasarawa State Government to replicate and work towards the sustenance of the structure implemented in the state
“GCERF is managed through its partners and we believe that we have supported to a level they can be able to establish these modules and move to other states. We would still be engaged with Nasarawa State and we would love to grow from the lessons and continue to follow the progress of these examples and hopefully we have been able to generate interest across other states in Nigeria,” she said.
In her remark, Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, represented by the Director of Programmes, Suwaiba Muhammed Dankabo, expressed happiness over the project’s achievements and the success stories recorded during its implementation in Nasarawa State.
“In April 2019, ActionAid Nigeria continued to build on the successes achieved during the implementation of phase one of the SARVE project in Kogi State with expansion to 12 communities across six LGAs of Obi, Lafia, Nasarawa-Eggon, Akwanga, Toto and Nasarawa in Nasarawa State.
The SARVE II project focused on identifying and digging deep into the fundamental causes of the types of violence that exist in the host communities and created opportunities for real time community-led solutions to prevent and address locally stimulated conflicts and restiveness. Benefitting communities in Nasarawa were also supported against injustice and inequalities through series of activities targeted at building tolerance, strengthening community agencies where violent extremists exploit weak governance and providing positive socio-economic alternatives as well as useful life skills compared to what violent extremists claim to offer.
Obi said the project utilised thoughtful engagement of young people and youth networks to achieve de-radicalisation and peace, bearing in mind the relevant roles they could play in enhancing peace building initiatives. She said in the 33-month, life span of the SARVE II project reached 1,614 persons (youth-600 men, 505 women: 509 adult women) with valuable life and economic empowerment skills reducing their vulnerability to violent extremism and built the capacity of 120 mid and higher-level media professionals on conflict sensitive reportage, feminist journalism and peace building.
“In addition, 60 police officers (15 women, 45 men), were trained to respond to rising issues of violent extremism through the fundamental Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) while working closely with existing community policing structures. Other landmark achievements include the establishment of 12 Conflict Management Alliance (LOCMA) structures in 12 LGAs in Kogi and Nasarawa States to prevent conflicts from escalating in the communities and promoting peace in the states at large, among others.
“In line with ActionAid Nigeria’s dedication to fight against poverty and injustice, which hinders development, the project supported and pursued the domestication of the United Nation’s Security Council Resolution 2250 that borders on Youth, Peace and Security in Nasarawa State. The document fits perfectly into the framework of action for accelerating peace building and security in the state while ensuring that impact of previous conflicts among vulnerable groups/communities are mitigated. ActionAid has been working in Nigeria since 1999 in various areas including resilience building.
“We believe that poverty is manmade, and our motivation is to see a Nigeria where every person enjoys his or her right to life with dignity. Globally, ActionAid works in 46 countries with the belief that a world without poverty and injustice is possible. Although, originally founded by Cecil Jackson-Cole, a British businessman with the intention of supporting the education of 88 poor children in India and Kenya in 1972; that noble gesture has reached millions of people across the world and metamorphosed into a full-fledged leading Non-Governmental Organisation globally,” she said.
The Country Director therefore, appreciated the consistent support of the Nasarawa State government and other relevant stakeholders for their continued support and collaboration in their quest to prevent and end violent extremism in Nigeria. She also thanked GCERF for funding the project which sustained the smooth implementation of the project.
She congratulated benefiting communities, girls, women, youths for their resilience and commitment throughout the lifecycle of the project aimed at achieving sustainable peace in the state and called for the sustainability of the programme.
In a goodwill message, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Hauwa Aliyu Ogah, said she was delighted to associate with ActionAid and commended their efforts towards transforming the lives and living conditions of youths including women and girls in the state.
“ActionAid have identified themselves as worthy partners of the ministry providing service delivery and capacity building, funding and support to programmes in the area of women empowerment. We have, through their active and valuable collaboration, achieved mile stone in the domestication of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women peace and security in Nasarawa State.
“The SARVE II project that is targeted towards eliminating violent extremism is a potent tool to effectively channeling the energies of the youths and their actions and activities towards providing social and economic as well as political activities not only for the individual development and well-being but for the society as a whole,” HajiyaOgah said.
She therefore, commended ActionAid and her partners for impacting positively on communities in the state and urged beneficiaries to utilise the opportunity given them effectively for peace and unity of the state and country at large.
On his part, Executive Director, GPD, Ebruke Esike said the SARVE II project has impacted positively on young men and women through economic, social and political re-construction of mindset and empowerment of livelihood equipment even as it has contributed to improve income earnings.
“Recall that in July 2019, most of us gathered here during the official lunch of the SARVE ll project with skeletal information of the expected outcome of the intervention. As we close-out, I must mention that we have, during the project life, contributed to promote community resilience through established community agencies such as CARTs, LOCMA, and SCOMA which I humbly request that duty bearers should support to ensure sustainability of the platforms considering the current security situation we all have to contend with to enjoy safety, security, and peaceful co-existence,” Esike said.
He thanked the state government, GCERF, ActionAid Nigeria, Beacon Youth Initiative, communities and members of the press for their unwavering collaboration and support throughout the 33 months of the intervention.
Executive Director of BYI, Emmanuel Okolo, thanked ActionAid, GCERF, the state government and others for contributing immensely to the success of the project in the state for the overall good of the country.
The close-out of the three years project in the state and launch of the Nasarawa State Youth Action Plan in line with the domestication of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 featured presentation of awards to benefiting communities and other distinguished personalities who contributed greatly to the success of the project in the state.