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The return of ethnic tension to Mile 12 market




Sir: Just recently, I was among those who commemorated and celebrated the 16th anniversary of the peace enjoyed in Mile 12 market after the last ethnic attacks in November 1999.

To me, the return of ethnic tensions in the market and its environs is an evidence of government’s failure to adequately cater for its citizenry and this new wave of conflicts should, therefore, serve as a wake-up call for local, state and national governments to live up to their social responsibilities.

Over the years, the Lagos State Government has failed to give concrete attention to peace building in the market. Whenever there is a fight between ethnic groups, what government does is to cease hostilities using military capacities and force parties to negotiate the agreement without tracking, monitoring and committing resources to the peace-building process in the area.

Following the end of the violent attacks between Hausa and Yoruba in the market in 1999, government has done practically nothing in building peace within the market. Apart from forcing an agreement and setting up of an Inter-Ethnic Forum which was short-lived, most of the peace-building initiatives responsible for the stable peace enjoyed in the market were put in place by the stakeholders (market and religious leaders) in the market.

In the wake of calls by some members of the Lagos State House of Assembly to relocate the market, it is important to point out that it is not the market that is responsible for the ethnic conflicts in the area. Relocation of the market to any part of Lagos State is no guarantee of peace in the area. Though it may ease the traffic problem experienced along Ketu-Ikorodu axis but ultimately it will not ensure peaceful coexistence between the ethnic groups. It is important to note that contact between Hausa and Yoruba or any other ethnic group by itself cannot generate ethnic tension but rather it is the socio-economic context of their contact that generates ethnic conflicts.

Some of the triggers of the ethnic tensions in the area include lack of social amenities. As at today, the market lacks good road network, public toilets, health facilities and so forth.

As if that is not enough, conflict and dispute resolution mechanism in the market has been commercialised. The aim, instead of resolving conflicts, restoring and building relationships has been to generate revenues for market leaders and government. Traders are charged before issues of conflicts and disputes are entertained and resolved. This has been largely responsible for traders not to willingly report disagreements and conflicts to appropriate authorities.

The recent ethnic clash in Mile 12 is not because Hausa are blood thirsty, neither is it because Yoruba are not accommodating. Reducing ethnic conflicts to primordial causes implies sheer ignorance. Government must provide adequate social amenities for the people, set up a permanent inter-ethnic forum charged with the responsibility of educating Nigerians on the need for oneness and peaceful coexistence. An early warning mechanism to spotlight conflict flashpoints must also be put in place.

• Lawal Adeniran
University of Ibadan.

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