By Therese Nanlong
About 12bn dollars which could be channelled to development projects in the country is lost annually due to insecurity in the Middle Belt, research results have confirmed even as the violent conflicts ravaging the region have been defined as “conflict of resources” not religion as being portrayed in different quarters.
The Country Director, Search for Common Ground, SFCG, Sher Nawaz gave the statistic yesterday in Jos while speaking with journalists on the sideline of the start-up workshop for the media for peace project in Plateau State.
Nawaz also noted one of the factors contributing to the perennial violent conflict is the desertification which has seen about 320, 000 hectares of land being deserted annually and called for urgent steps to reverse the trend.
He maintained that there is need to advance a credible and peaceful media sector in the state who would amplify peaceful narrative and access to reliable, credible and conflict sensitive information in the State.
According to him, “Because of insecurity in the Middle Belt, Nigeria losses 12bn dollars per year, if that insecurity is solved, the household income in the Middle Belt will be increased from 60% to 210% so if we want to help the government of Nigeria and Plateau State in particular, we need to tackle insecurity.
“How do we do that? There are many aspects to this insecurity but one aspect comes out very strongly, that it is a conflict for resources it is not a conflict of anything else. People have coined the narratives that are not true; some say it is a conflict between Muslims and Christians why is that not true? Because in Zamfara, it is Muslim herders and Muslim farmers.
“Yes, this conflict about resources takes a manifestation of inter-religious conflict but that is not the cause. The cause is the struggle for resources. We know that 320,000 hectares of land become desertified every year in Nigeria, we have 20million cattle but we have one million hectares of grazing land.
“That is not sustainable, we realised that this insecurity needs to be tackled that is why we are interfacing with the media to introduce conflict sensitive reporting, half of the conflicts and their effects would be gone. Why do ordinary people think herders and farmers are their enemies? Because of the narratives in the media, we are here to introduce peace building in the work of the media.”
Various stakeholders gave their views on how the media could contribute in de-escalating violence and mitigate the effects of violent conflicts with the State Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Paul Jatau stressing that the media has no choice than embrace peace journalism if practitioners need a sane society to practice.
He said, “Peace journalism ensures that we talk about things that are positive even in conflict situations because these are the issues that could help solve the problems.”