Britain warns that unresolved conflicts may destabilize Nigeria’s democracy.

The British Government has warned that the rise in conflicts can destabilize Nigeria’s democracy in the run-up to the 2023 elections.

This is even as governors on the platform of Nigeria Governors’ Forum have declared that the level of insecurity across parts of the country is not only eroding citizens’ safety and peoples’ means of livelihood but also threatening the expression of the rights of all Nigerians.

Both spoke at the launch of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Peace and Inclusive Security Initiative (PISI) in Abuja on Thursday.

The Development Director, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Chris Beecroft, in his good will message blamed the frequent crisis across the country on injustice and impunity, as well as weak justice institutions in the country, noting however, that peace and stability could be achieved when the causes of conflict in society are managed through strong, fair, and responsive governance mechanisms at community, state, or federal level.

He stressed that the conflict represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development. According to him, “The rise in conflict risks destabilizing Nigeria’s democracy in the run-up to the 2023 elections. There is an active insurgency in the North East; farmer-herder conflicts are extending across the country; resource conflicts in the Delta; tension in the South-East; and banditry in the North West. Conflict destroys lives, destroys livelihoods, destroys hope and ambition for the future. Conflict represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s unity and its development.”

Beecroft explained that the use of the police and army would only be part of the solution, and called for greater emphasis “on reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and access to justice – all vital components of a vibrant, resilient, and effective social contract.”

According to him, proliferation of small arms and weapons and the weaponisation of social media are drivers of conflict and instability. He called for job creation for young Nigerians “so they have a stake in a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria,” adding however, that “with the right commitment, dedications and support, there are solutions.”

Beecroft stated that the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office recognized the important role the NGF plays in setting the peace and security agenda, and in building state and community level structures and institutions to reduce violence and respond to conflict and insecurity across Nigeria.

“The UK is pleased to have been able to support this initiative and is committed to continue working with the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in advancing its peace and security agenda. The UK is engaged in supporting Nigeria to reduce violent conflict in a number of areas. We promote a regional response in the North East and Lake Chad Basin through our contribution to the Regional Stabilization Facility (RSF) and delivery of programmes on peace building, humanitarian assistance, protection of civilians, human development, good governance and accountability,” he said.

Former head of state and Chairman of National Peace Committee Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.), in his remarks, expressed worry over what he called “the instrumentalization of violence,” noting that “violence has become a commodity in Nigeria.”

Abubakar, who was represented by Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, said Nigerians are in denial of the diagnosis.

According to him, poverty is not the cause of violence in Nigeria, arguing that China has about 300 million unemployed.

Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, noted that the spate of violence and coordinated criminal activities have undermined government authority and waned public trust in recent times.

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