By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Federal Government with the support of UNDP on Tuesday, launched a project to enhance efforts in countering violent extremism and piracy, as well as enhancing civilian protection.
The ‘Enhancing National Capacities for Counter-Violent Extremism, Anti-Piracy and Protection of Civilians’ project, is designed to be implemented in Nigeria, ECOWAS and Gulf of Guinea.
The Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba, said the effort was to achieve more results, to ensure safety in the country and the subregion.
Agba, represented by Mrs Victoria Olulade, a Deputy Director in the ministry, said Federal Government’s policies and investment in the Armed Forces and International community has helped in combatting the menace.
He however said there was an urgent desire to sharpen the capacities of security agencies on counter-terrorism and protection of civilians for more effective response and reduction in civilian casualties.
According to him, the project will build capacities, tactics and strategies of security agencies to combat extremism and terrorism.
“This will go a long way to save lives, avert injuries, improve life expectancy and security,” he added.
He said the project would also contribute to achieving Nigeria’s long-term goals on humanitarian sector growth, as enshrined in the National Development Plan 2021-2025 and Sustainable Development Goals.
The minister reaffirmed government’s commitment to collaborate with relevant agencies to achieve the objective of the project in Nigeria.
In his remarks, the Team Lead, Governance, Peace and Security, UNDP, Mr Matthew Alao, said the objective was to improve national capacities of ECOWAS and Gulf of Guinea countries to decrease the influence of violent extremists and pirates.
Alao said the project was also designed to improve protection of civilians in armed conflicts, given the challenges posed by the menace of violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel.
According to him, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has been detrimental to economic prosperity and socio-economic wellbeing of governments and citizens of the affected countries.
“UNDP and the Government of Japan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, MLAILPKC and the Nigerian Navy formulated this project.
“It is to build and strengthen the capacities of key stakeholders in the targeted regions to curtail the negative impacts of violent extremism and piracy.
“The project equally seeks to ensure that civilians caught up in armed conflict are secured and protected,” he said.
Alao said that the Government of Japan had funded 15 projects in Nigeria since 2015 with over 27.58 million dollars.
He said the launch of the project represented the fourth in the series of anti- piracy and peace support operations projects jointly designed by UNDP, finance ministry and the Nigerian Navy.
Alao the implementation was being done by MLAILPKC since 2020, with funding support from the Government of Japan.
“The continuous funding of development projects by Government of Japan and UNDP at the Centre is indicative of confidence and reliability reposed on the Centre by the International Partners since 2014,” he added.
Alao recalled that the 2022 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) report puts Nigeria in 8th position on the table of countries most impacted by terrorism, three places lower than 2021, with Burkina Faso and Mali occupying second and third positions.
He said the situation also reflected similar prevalence in piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, with 115 incidents recorded in 2022 and 132 in 2021.
The Commandant, Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre (MLAILPKC), Maj.-Gen. Emmanuel Undiandeye, said that violent extremism has been driving violence in the society.
He said the project would promote protection of civilians caught in violent environments while trying to reduce violence.
The Japanese Defense Attache in Nigeria, Lt.-Col. Uchiumi Kazuaki, said Japan, in collaboration with MLAILPKC and UNDP, has been implementing projects related to counter-piracy in Nigeria.
Kazuaki said that available data had showed that the security of the Gulf of Guinea had been greatly enhanced by not only this project, but also the tremendous efforts of the Nigerian government.
He pledged that Japan would continue to contribute to the security of the Gulf of Guinea, including the provision of high- speed patrol boats to NIMASA.
He explained that the project focuses on counter-piracy, and strengthening the capacity of security authorities and officials to counter violent extremism and protect civilians in armed conflicts.
“In short, the project will contribute to peace and stability in Nigeria and, by extension, throughout West Africa.
“However, we are also aware that violent extremism has been growing throughout West Africa in recent years and that violent extremism is expanding beyond the Northeast.
“Recently, military operations against terrorists have already resulted in civilian casualties and serious injuries and damage,’’ he said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Maharazu Ahmed