By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Japanese ambassador to Nigeria, Matsunaga Kazuyoshi, has advocated a multi-country partnership to combat violent extremist crimes spreading across West Africa.
Kazuyoshi made the call at the graduation of participants of the Counter Violent Extremism Course 3/2023 organised by the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre (MLAILPKC), on Friday in Abuja.
The course was sponsored by the Government of Japan in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
He said violent extremist crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, small-weapons smuggling and robbery, were on the rise across West Africa.
He added that military operations against terrorists had resulted in civilian casualties and serious damage in some cases.
The envoy said the training project was designed to focus on strengthening the capacity of security authorities and actors in West African countries to counter violent extremism and protect civilians in armed conflicts.
According to him, the project will contribute to peace and stability in Nigeria and, by extension, throughout West Africa.
“In order to combat violent extremist crimes that are spreading across West Africa, it is important to have a multi-country partnership, not just a single country,” he said.
He commended the MLAILPKC and UNDP for their efforts in organising the course, while expressing optimism that the participants had gained practical knowledge, and that the course had also built cooperation and trust among participants from other countries.
“In August last year, the Japanese government, together with UNDP, the World Bank and the AUC, hosted the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Tunisia, inviting African heads of state and government.
“Japan pledged to contribute to realisation of sustainable peace and stability” and “strengthening human resource development” in Africa.
“This course represents both of these pledges and I hope that all of you will return safely to your home countries or states and apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired in this course.
“The Government of Japan, together with other international partners such as UNDP, will continue to contribute to peace and stability in Africa, to the livelihoods of the African people and to economic growth and prosperity,” he added.
In his remarks, the UNDP Team Leader, Governance, Peace and Security, Mr. Matthew Alao, commended the management of MLAILPKC for their steadfastness, commitment and excellent implementation of the project.
Alao said building the capacity of the relevant partners to effectively counter violent extremism would improve socio-economic wellbeing of the respective population, sustain regional and national peace and development.
He added that it would also enhance the professionalism of the beneficiaries, and significantly boost citizen-government trust and confidence.
The participants, according to him, are thus encouraged to nurture the knowledge and expertise acquired in the last two weeks and apply them in all related assignments.
Also, a former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, urged participants to use the knowledge they acquired during the course to contribute to peace and stability in their respective countries.
Agwai, who is the Chairman Board of Trustees of MLAILPKC, said advancement in technology had increased security threats across the world.
“You will agree with me that in the world you are living in today is different from the world some of us grew into when we were young. The more knowledgeable people are becoming, the more gadget that you have, the more the threat to security becomes.
“Today, you don’t need to organise any lecture, all you need is to go on a websits, put things, and you will find followers; those who are agreeing and disagreeing with you.
“It is a tough time for you especially those who have something to do with human security,” he said.
The Acting Commandant, MLAILPKC, Brig.-Gen. Obinna Onubogu, said the two-week intensive training had participants from four West African countries, namely Republics of Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Onubogu said violent extremism had remained a threat to peace, adding that any meaningful effort that sought to counter its effects on society must start with a clear determination to prevent intolerance and radicalisation.
“As it is often said, no one is born a violent extremist, but people can be influenced and pressured into violent extremism.
“Hence, to counter violent extremism, we must start by initiating meaningful dialogue on how to address hateful and violent narratives, as well as deepen our respect for human rights and the rule of law through education and awareness.
“This is where this course started, and this is where the participants started the journey,” he said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Benson Iziama/Salif Atojoko