By Brenda Agba
Benue people have been called upon to join hands with the government at all levels and transcend boundaries towards championing the cause of peace.
Governor Hyacinth Alia made this call Thursday in his address at the Benue State Government House on the occasion of the 2023 International Day of Peace celebration.
Speaking on the theme of this year’s celebration which is, “Action for Peace: Our Ambition for the Global Goals”, the Governor described it as a call to action that recognizes the people’s individual and collective responsibility towards fostering peace.
Governor Alia said: “As we celebrate this day, it is important to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the Tinubu government towards ensuring that peace ensues not only in the country but across Africa. It is in this regard that the Federal Government of Nigeria under his Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is working assiduously with relevant partners and stakeholders as can be seen in the recent collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning and the UNDP on ensuring peace in Nigeria.
“Additionally, the federal Government’s five-year security plan is a key instrument in the peace process in Nigeria. With all the milestones and indicators outlined in the plan, the foundation for achieving lasting peace in the country has been set in motion”.
He acknowledged the President’s bilateral conversations with the AU Chairperson in New York recently, saying it further confirms his commitment to peace, not just in Nigeria but in Africa at large.
The governor, while explaining that peace is not merely the absence of conflict but the presence of harmony, understanding and justice said, it is the foundation upon which progress, stability and prosperity are built.
“In Benue State, our administration has taken proactive measures by institutionalizing the framework to support peace-building and peace enforcement as two important variables to tackling the menace of intractable conflicts in the state as well as by interfacing with a plethora of local and international organizations, including agencies of the UN, with the aim of establishing a robust foundation for the institutionalization of peace-building and non-kinetic peace enforcement.
“This interface is currently yielding positive results and in a few months from now, violent conflicts would be reduced to a minimum level.
“The State Government is also strengthening the State Commission for Peace and Reconciliation, as the main instrument for the actualisation of this peace framework. The commission is presently working on several peace initiatives, including that of creating the right atmosphere for the return and resettlement of internally displaced persons in the state.
Governor Alia explained that the state government has also engaged traditional rulers and community based organizations as well as other critical stakeholders in peace building to mobilize them for the purpose of recognizing the people’s individual and collective responsibilities towards fostering peace in the state.
“It is expected that these stakeholders, will in a phased manner, take over the peace building responsibilities in their locales and cascade this framework to the very grassroots”, he maintained, adding that government has paid close and keen attention to conflict hot spots in the state for the purpose of nipping emerging disputes in the bud and drawing on the benefits of the non-kinetic approach to peace.
“To this end, we visited and assessed the conflict outbreaks in Ukum, Oju, Konshisha and Gwer Local Government Areas. This has brought diverse communities together, promoting dialogue and understanding. Their efforts have upheld social cohesion, defusing tensions and creating an environment conducive to growth and development.
“From the foregoing, it is obvious that despite the immense challenges we face as a government, we have shown remarkable resilience in our pursuit for peace. The government’s dedication to conflict resolution, the protection of human rights, and the promotion of peaceful coexistence have planted the seeds of unity and reconciliation, offering hope for a brighter future.
“However, as we gather on this global platform, it is essential to recognize that the responsibility of achieving sustainable peace extends beyond the borders of our state or nation”.
The governor called on the international community to lend their invaluable support to Benue, as they work towards harmony and reconciliation, saying this assistance could take various forms, such as financial contributions, technical expertise or the sharing of best practices.
“By collaborating closely with our government, we can help implement effective strategies that not only resolve conflicts but also prevent their reoccurrence. Let us support capacity-building programmes, educate communities on peaceful coexistence, and promote inclusivity, particularly in the marginalized areas where tensions often arise”, the governor appealed.
In his remarks, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Hon. Joseph Har reiterated the state government’s resolve to phase out crises entrepreneurs and called for all hands to be on deck in the pursuit of peace to pave the way for greater development.
In their separate goodwill messages, the state Coordinator, Benue State Non-Governmental Organisations Network (BENGONET), Mr. Lazarus Mom and that of Benue State Community of Practice for Peace and Security, Barr, Justin Gbagir both commended the governor over his efforts at ensuring peace in the state and pledged their continuous support.
Earlier, the Director General, Benue State Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Mrs. Josephine Haba, appreciated Governor Alia for making himself available for the 2023 International Day of Peace, saying the day has never had the presence of a governor during its celebration in the state.
She said the Benue Peace and Reconciliation Commission, an initiative of the governor, is working closely with the government and all the international partners to ensure that the governor’s desire to return and resettle the IDPs back to their ancestral homes is achieved.
Mrs. Haba called on the governor and the Benue State Commissioner for Education, to ensure the reintroduction of Peace Clubs in all schools in the state.
A major highlight of the 2023 International Peace Day was a Peace Walk from the IBB Square to the Government House by a combination of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), People With Special Needs (PWSNs), secondary school students together with members of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission. The event also witnessed the launch of the commission’s logo by the Executive Governor of Benue State, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia.