After having peaceful elections, Plateau State is being torn apart by religious sentiments: Western-funded agency

Peace managers in Nigeria’s Plateau State have expressed worry over a raging religious hate speech across the state, building tensions in the aftermath of the country’s general elections.

The State had one of the most peaceful elections in the country on 25 February and 18 March, said Mr. Joseph Lengmang, the Director General of the Plateau State Peace Building Agency.

Yet, the State has been plagued by a rash of religious sentiments being spread by aggrieved politicians who lost the elections, threatening local peace, said Lengmang to reporters at his office in Jos, Thursday.

“The greatest disservice we can do to our nation is to bring back the hands of the clock simply because we are disenchanted or dissatisfied with the outcomes of an election,” said Lengmang, touring the agency’s monthly media engagement program. 

“We call on those stoking the embers of ethnoreligious hatred to please desist because by so doing you’re just going to u undermine the modest achievements that we have made as far as electoral processes are concerned,” he said.

In the last three decades, Plateau State has witnessed a series of religious clashes leading to thousands of deaths.

The agency which identifies as a non-partisan, non religious and non-ethnic peace and reconciliation umpire estimates 1322 people have died from such conflicts since 1994. Independent monitoring groups have reported a much higher figure. 

The conflicts have drastically declined in recent years with the last incident occurring in August 2021.

Religious motivated attacks have continued to occur in unguarded communities but the peace agency has led a continuous engagement with all state and non-state actors to resolve existing conflicts and prevent new ones, states the agency on its website. 

Lengmang called aggrieved politicians to be “decent” in expressing their concerns while advising winners of the polls held 25 February and 18 March to be “magnanimous”.

“There might be violations here and there but we will also lend our voice to the fact that there are mechanisms – institutional mechanisms on the ground that will enable us to seek for redress in such cases. It is out of place to bring down the whole roof simply because we didn’t have our own way in terms of winning an election,” Lengmang said.

“The good thing about our democracy is that we are evolving – we are developing over time. The US Democratic experience is over 200 years but still there are issues. So also for us, it is still a fledgling democracy. There are a lot of inadequacies and we can collectively look at these things using the institutional mechanisms that we have to seek for redress and to follow that process through and through,” he added.

The peace agency created on the 2nd of February 2016, by the Governor of Plateau state, Mr. Simon Bako Lalong to serve as a hub for the effective coordination of all conflict prevention and peace building efforts in the state.

The agency has since inception partnered with a variety of local and international organizations including the United States Embassy in Abuja, United States Institute for Peace (USIP), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), TearFund, MercyCorps, USAID, UNDP, UNWOMEN and among others, Search for Common Ground.

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