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At parley, experts offer solution to combating insecurity

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Some gunmen during an operation


Insecurity in Nigeria has become a major concern for citizens as well as the international community. In the last few years, the country has battled with all forms of insecurity, which is akin to the situation after the Civil War in the 1970s. Almost on a daily basis, reports of people being killed by ritualists, cultists, vigilante groups, the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram, dominate the scene. Analyses have shown that insecurity has affected economic growth by drying out investments, increasing unemployment and dwindling government revenue, amongst others.

In a report released by Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) recently, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa programme, it was revealed that on September 7, sectarian violence led to the deaths of 10 people in Ohaukwu, Ebonyi, and gunmen kidnapped six in Kachia, Kaduna.

Also on September 8, gunmen killed two people in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, kidnappers killed one and abducted three in Rafi, and political violence led to the death of one in Shiroro, both in Niger State; Boko Haram killed three people in Nganzai, and nine Nigerian soldiers in Kukawa, Borno States on September 9.

On September 10, Nigerian soldiers killed 15 Shiites during the Ashura procession: three in Kaduna North, six in Katagum, Bauchi; three in Gombe, two in Goronyo, Sokoto; and one in Katsina (no LGA given). On the same day, the Nigerian Air Force killed “some” Boko Haram militants (estimated at five) and Nigerian troops killed three Boko Haram militants in Gwoza, Borno State. On September 11 and 12, sectarian violence led to five deaths in Takum, Taraba State and Boko Haram killed six Nigerian soldiers and one member of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Gubio, Borno State.

Media experts have bemoaned the situation, urging the government to employ constructive meetings between the government and the insurgents to end the lingering conflicts in the country, especially in the Northeast.The experts, comprising of senior journalists and media scholars, spoke during a one-day training on conflict prevention and peacebuilding for journalists and ethnic-based groups, in Lagos.

The programme was organised by Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), and sponsored by Ford Foundation.Executive Director of JODER, Adewale Adeoye said the media was not doing enough in terms of engaging with the communities directly impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency. He hinted that during one of his visits to Borno State, he discovered that some communities had lost confidence in the government and wanted a third party to act as mediator between the government and the insurgents. Adeoye, however, said that there was potential for a peaceful settlement between the government and Boko Haram insurgents.

This, he said, was still possible in spite of the fact that the two parties had “taken extreme non-negotiable positions, which made the prospects of conflict resolution more difficult.A representative of Television Continental (TVC), Babajide Otitoju, who spoke on the topic: “Conflict Resolution in our Society and the Role of the Media,” lamented that efforts by the military to tackle Boko Haram had been futile, stressing that not all conflicts could be resolved by warfare. Otitoju urged the Federal Government to seek peace through constructive engagement, saying, “It is clear that the Nigerian Army is far from defeating Boko Haram.”

According to him, peace is valuable and one of the greatest means of suing for peace is constructive engagement, stressing that not all wars could be won through military actions.He added that it was a tragedy that journalists were dependent on army spokesmen to report the insurgency, adding that the military don’t allow journalists to report independently in order to “feed them with lies.”

Otitoju said: “The last 20 combats between the Nigeria Army and Boko Haram ended in the defeat of the army. They now kill soldiers like flies. We have on our hands a big problem with Boko Haram. The strategy for war is not working; we are paying with lives, even young ones. How much longer can we go?“We want peace in our land because force doesn’t always work. Mediation, constructive engagement will achieve what force has not succeeded in achieving. Seek mediation; find a way to make peace with the enemy. The soldiers are no longer ready to fight because of what happened to their colleagues. We don’t want conflict in our nation but where conflict is inevitable, there must be a way around it.

“Journalists joining the military in lying to Nigerians, giving the impression that the military repel attacks is a sin against God. President Buhari underrated Boko Haram when he first came to government in 2015 but the period of underrating them is over. The consistent attack against the army is on the increase.” Otitoju castigated the media for the indolent manner with which some journalists were reporting insurgency, saying many of them had turned to military spokespersons.

“As journalists, our word is bound and people will only take us seriously when we tell the truth. Journalists should brace up and go to the war zone to get information,” he stressed. A former senior correspondent at Vanguard Newspaper, Chris Nderibe urged journalists to always balance their reporting in order to promote peace. He also urged the participants to refrain from ethnic profiling, avoid generalisation, and have public interest and national unity at heart when writing their reports.On his part, Chairman, Lagos State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Dr Qasim Akinreti, urged journalists to be conversant with their environment, and mindful of words and images they use in reporting their stories.

Akinreti said journalists should not play up biases in reporting diversity, adding that use of words in writing and utterances was very important.He decried the menace of fake news being promoted majorly by the social media and promised to ensure that online practitioners became part of the union.“We must revisit the issue of online practitioners and make them part of the NUJ. We need to populate the social media with authentic blogs and websites, so we can determine what is reported.

“The NUJ is going to crackdown on fake journalists; we have had enough of all the people misrepresenting the media. We will also be strict about biometric registration of journalists. We want to enforce the rules to enhance the reputation of journalism in Nigeria,” Akinreti said.He also disclosed that the NUJ community radio would soon go on air, saying that necessary structures had been put in place for its takeoff.

Also, President of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, Dotun Oladipo, challenged professional journalists to occupy the social media space in a bid to promote peace in the country. Oladipo lamented that despite the huge number of journalists on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and WhatsApp, among others, many of them do not go beyond “chatting” and making comments on development instead of correcting wrong information and providing accurate news.
Oladipo enjoined professional journalists to keep establishing online news websites and use their Social Media platforms to publish authenticated news and information, especially to counter wrong and divisive information.


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