By Sumaila Ogbaje
Stakeholders on Tuesday in Abuja, called for community-based approach to address issues of Disarmament, Deradicalisation and Reintegration (DDR) of repentant extremists in Nigeria.
They made the call at a 4-day National Technical Workshop in Amnesty Management, Deradicalisation and Community-Based Reintegration.
The workshop was organised by the National Counter Terrorism Centre in the Office of the National Security Adviser, in collaboration with International Alert, Nigeria.
It was aimed at enhancing policy, and skills and the capacity of institutions to effectively implement DDR programmes in the country.
Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Deputy Comptroller of Correctional Service, Mr Sylvester Nwakauche, said the workshop was part of government’s commitment to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges posed by conflicts, extremism and violence in the country.
Aregbesola said that addressing the challenges required multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach, as well as the expertise of government, civil society, academia and the international community.
He said the issue of amnesty, deradicalization, and community-based reintegration was of paramount importance, in view of the increasing number of individuals influenced by extremist ideologies.
These individuals, according to him, posed significant threat to peace and stability in Nigeria and globally.
“Amnesty and deradicalisation efforts must be coupled with community-based reintegration programme that provides former extremists with the support and resources they need to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society.
“It is imperative that we work together to find long-term solutions to these complex challenges.
“I am confident that this workshop will provide a platform for us to engage in meaningful discussions and share best practices,” he said.
According to the minister, the workshop is to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to deradicalization and reintegration, leveraging the strengths of local communities and the support of international community.
“We will explore the latest research and best practices in the field of amnesty, deradicalization, and community-based reintegration,” he said.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, said the workshop was to promote collaborative learning and a shared purpose for advancing DDR by key stakeholders.
Monguno was represented by the Coordinator, National Counter-Terrorism Centre, retired Rear Adm. Yaminu Musa.
He said it was an opportunity for those involved in amnesty management, deradicalisation and community-based reintegration to have strategic and operational level understanding of the concepts, approaches and new practices in effective planning, implementation and coordination of DDR.
The NSA said the scale at which youths had been joining armed groups was alarming, adding that measures to deal with the trend needed to focus on preventing radicalisation among young people and transforming those who had taken up arms into normal civilians.
He said that DDR fundamentally aims to re-establish the state’s monopoly of violence and the control of force in a post conflict phase.
“It is a precondition for ending armed conflict, securing stabilisation and initiating a process leading to sustainable development.
“The objectives of this workshop are to understand the basic concepts, strategies and approaches of DDR and identify key requirements for successful Amnesty, Deradicalisation and Reintegration programme, including but not limited to initiating the design of a robust DDR strategy.
“It is also to identify amnesty, deradicalisation and reintegration planning processes and how it contributes to stability, peace and development.”
The NSA said the participants would gain practical skills required for implementing the programme in high-risk environments and initiate collaboration and coordination among key actors and institutions.
Monguno said the practice of amnesty in which federal and state governments repeatedly grant amnesties can be counter-productive to national security in the absence of established policy and legislation, national ownership and coordination mechanism.
He said though significant success had been achieved with the security efforts in the North-East and North-West, the shifting strategy of violent groups and the inability of troops to hold and stabilise recovered territories had created a key challenge.
He therefore said that cooperation of communities was unavoidable in the quest for government to consolidate on the gains of ongoing counter-terrorism operations.
According to him, measures to win the hearts and minds of the population is critical, as such gradual resettlement and reintegration of affected communities is crucial for success.
“This involves military, political, civil, social, economic and humanitarian interventions implemented within a multi-stakeholder platform,” he added.
A former Chief of Defence Staff, retired Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, said that building confidence in the minds of everyone was key to achieving disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.
Agwai said the challenge for Nigeria was to identify who the leaders of the terrorists were and bring them to the table for discussion and disarmament.
He warned that the nation would continue to have the problems of refugees and internally displaced persons, if the DDR programme was not properly handled.
Agwai said in the North East, the combination of kinetic and non-kinetic approaches were critical to addressing the issues and expressed confidence that the recent approach would greatly address insurgency in the region.
According to him, though containment is important, Nigeria must also identify and address the root causes through communication, building consensus, cooperation and coordination.
Agwai therefore said that all the military and humanitarian organisations involved, must have a comprehensive approach to counter terrorism and counterinsurgency. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Yakubu Uba/Maharazu Ahmed