November 27, 2021

Officials oppose “retributive justice” as lone peace option in Plateau State

DG Plateau Peace Building Agency, Mr. Joseph Lengmang apologizes to displaced women from Atakar tribe in Riyom LGA who are still homeless due to persistent threats

Officials in Plateau State have started a novel interagency partnership to end violent conflicts through stakeholder engagement.

The Plateau State Peace Building Agency and the State owned security outfit, Operation Rainbow last weekend agreed to cooperate to entrench “lasting peace” in the State.

Mr. Joseph Lengmang, the Director General of the Peace agency, in a meeting with Officials from the two outfits, said such collaborations were crucial for success.

“The potential that interagency cooperation holds for peace and stability and even development cannot be overemphasized.

“That is what the whole policy thrust of Government – peace security and good governance is all about.

“Gone are the days we sing about Government delivering on the promise of peace and stability unilaterally. If Government could do it, we wouldn’t have the attacks and counter attacks, the chaos, instability and restiveness in the State and country.

“The primary responsibility of Government to provide security and peace from what we see and know only exists on paper.

“In the face of the growing challenges, the disfunction in our governance framework, what can agencies, State and non State actors do to compliment or fill in those gaps? 

“The setting up of operation rainbow and peace building agency underscores that thinking that we must work together with citizens, ordinary communities to do extraordinary things.

“And if we can do that, we would nolonger have to depend even on security agencies like we used to do,” Lengmang said.

The Official believed community engagements, not security deployments were capable of solving insecurity in Nigeria.

In his words, “Some of the issues underlying conflicts, insurgency, attacks and counter attacks, communal clashes are issues that when communities are put in the center of discussions, we can prevent escalation.

“And in a way that is cheaper than waiting for violence to begin to send deployments there. In his wisdom, his Excellency (Governor Simon Lalong) thought there’s a need to have a significant shift from the pattern of response that we used to have in th past which is just deployments of security forces to the scene of Conflicts. Maybe to show that we are doing some things, we set up Commissions of inquiries, they do some works and present some reports that never get any where. That hasn’t worked as evident in the reoccurrence of violence from 2001 to the better part of 2014.”

In promoting discussions for peace, the goal of the Peace Building Agency is to achieve “restorative justice”, he said.

“Retributive justice” according to him is crucial, but mostly result-oriented if pursued alongside restorative justice.

The coordinator of Operation Rainbow, Mr. Bashir Dabup also said “restorative justice” was more beneficial to society and easier to achieve in a post-conflict society.

“The situation in Plateau has gotten to where it is and there’s nothing we can do about it than what lawyers call restorative justice where you accept you’ve faulted, I accept I’ve faulted and we move,” he said.

Mr. Dabup, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police told the meeting that his agency works to “protect the people by preventing conflicts”.

“We involved the people to participate in our activities and have peace as we exist to prevent, protect, promote, and create peace,” he said, declaring his agency’s reliance on civilian organizations as the peace agency, that specialize in community engagement.

Established ten years ago, Operation Rainbow relies on community based intelligence agents to detect and respond to violence.

The outfit operates a joint task force involving officials from the Police, State Security Services, Correctional Service, Customs, Immigration and Civil Defence.

Peace Building Agency on the other hand operates a centralized conflict resolution system, receiving early warning signals and engaging stakeholders to neutralize them through dialogue. It also helps communities hit by conflicts to overcome their differences and heal through regular reconciliation and discussion fora.

The agency was established six years ago to reduce military response to conflicts which the State Governor, Simon Lalong believes only controls violence but not the aftermath.

Many military organizations including Operation Safe Haven, the Joint Military Task Force operating in the State have attempted to replicate the approach in their operations.

Their activities have however been largely carried out in collaboration with the Peace Building Agency which operates independent of government, despite being owned by it.