From Msughshima Andrew, Makurdi
A non-profit organization, Search for Common Ground, (Search) has held a Peace Architecture Dialogue, (PAD), with a call on stakeholders to collaborate with it to find lasting peace in Benue state.
State Project Coordinator for Search, Chorbe Joshua while addressing participants at the PAD inaugural meeting said the dialogue is held in Benue State for the first time with the aim of deepening stakeholders engagement dealing with peace and security issues in Benue State.
According to him, PAD will be supported by Search for the period of 12 months on the values of Search as humility, humanity, empathy and audacity as a major driving force of the organization which has been maintaining the pace at all level.
Mr Chorbe said the project is already running in Guma and Otukpo Local governments and hope to extend to other LGs affected by the conflict including Logo, Agatu and Makurdi.
Giving an overview of the project, Senior Project Manager for Search, Olutoyin Falade said Benue state is most hit by the herder-farmers conflicts hence the need to find lasting peace.
She regretted that the state since the crisis has witnessed wide scale of human right abuses and increase in crimes such as cultism, drugs abuse, robbery, habouring of criminals by natives while increase in number of IDPs and IDPs camps have also been noticed.
She said Search aims to find ways to build already divided relationships back to normal with a peace architecture dialogue at the state level and community security architecture dialogue at the local government levels.
Falade who said Search will be building on the existing peace structures in the state, expressed hope that at the end of the project, peace will return to Benue for her development and the development of the country at large.
The participants at the meeting, SA to Governor Samuel Ortom on SDGs and NEPAD, Dr. Magdalene Dura, represented by Beatrice Shomkey, SA on Development and Cooperation, Commissioners for Agriculture and Information, Hycinth Nyakuma and Joseph Shimaor reapevtively among others commended Search for bringing such a laudable project to Benue and expressed commitments to work with them.
Commissioner of Police in Benue state, CP Omololu Bishi said in carrying out their constitutional responsibility in maintaining peace, law and order, his man power is overstretched with the crisis.
Bishi, represented by the Deputy Commissioner in-charge of Operations, DC Bumi Osoko said “It gives us concerns when these clashes occur and people are killed. We want to be part of your programmes as it will also enable us carry out our responsibilities.
Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr Joseph Shimaor who insisted that government is about protection of lives and property said the Ortom led government will work with partners to restore peace for development in the state
Our correspondent reports that Search for Common Ground, (Search) is an international non-profit organization that promotes peaceful resolution of conflict, with headquarters in Washington DC and European office in Brussels, Belgium.
Search has a mission to transform how individuals, organizations and government’s deal with conflict away from adversarial approaches and towards cooperative solutions.
The organization is implementing a 24 months projects titled, “Transforming the Herder-Farmer Conflict and Promoting Freedom of Religions and Belief in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.”
The project aims to increase collaboration between herder and farmer communities to develop joint, effective sustainable local mechanism for early warning early response dispute management and violence prevention and mitigation at the community levels.
They also want to strengthen implementation of rule of law and accountability measures by the government of focus states and relevant federal government institutions to respond to and prevent violence at state levels.
They also aim to enhance public understanding of herder-farmer conflicts by promoting conflict sensitive contents and countering hate speech, biases and negative narratives that fuel violence.
The project is implemented by Search with funding from The Kingdom of the Netherlands. Search has therefore pledged to support the Peace Architecture Dialogue (PAD), in Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states.