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—Say implementation of Action Plan on countering extremism requires community engagement

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

Experts in Nextier SPD have said that poor implementation of Nigeria’s National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism has resulted to unrelenting carnage and loss of lives through terrorism in Nigeria, since 2017 when the plan was introduced.

Recall that the action plan was unveiled by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to provide a policy basis for engaging with the challenges of violent extremism in Nigeria.

The document identified the core constituencies to focus on, including women and girls, families, schools, community leaders, faith-based organisations, health/social workers, civil society organisations, media and social media influencers, artists and social mobilisers, political leaders, private sector (and markets), policing and civil-military relations.

But while interrogating the impact of the document on the country’s war against terror and violent extremism, influential policy think-tank, Nextier SPD discovered that despite the rich policy provided in the action plan, “deaths related to terror, banditry and extremism since 2017, when the document was published, have not been mitigated significantly.

“This suggests gaps at the implementation points, especially the community-level engagement. The rich potential of the community as the core point of action for the prevention and countering of violent extremism is yet to be fully harnessed.”

Researchers at Nextier, in its Policy Weekly report authored by Dr. Ben  Nwosu and Dr. Ndu Nwokolo, noted that while community engagement remained a core point of implementation for any programme of prevention or countering of violent extremism, “the level of community involvement, which ought to be the centre of actions to prevent and counter extremism, is inadequate despite the National Action Plan”.

They noted that “the level of community involvement, which ought to be the centre of actions to prevent and counter-extremism, is inadequate despite the National Action Plan.

“With such a lack of action, it is no surprise that violent extremism is increasing across the country. It has moved from known religious leanings to economic, political, cultural, and even extreme ideological positions.

“The community engagement component of the plan advocates participatory strategies with civil society and local communities.”

Nextier further posited that “systematic prevention through coordinated intelligence sharing and safe spaces for discursive interaction still lacks policy support.

“The point being made is that spaces of conversation that build on local contexts of dialogue such as women’s groups, youth groups, elders forums, teachers and schools, and religious groups and with adequate training on the need for preventive action against violent extremism would be more persuasive to the local communities.”

In summarising their recommendations towards bridging the major gaps in community engagement, the researchers pointed out that the community focus of the National Action Plan for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism must be given policy attention.

Also, Local Governments in the regions with cases of violent extremism should set up coordinators to support activities in the communities; while the media should report any growing extremist or radicalising messages.

They equally suggested that the National Orientation Agency should work with NGOs and think tanks to develop guide notes on violent extremism.

“By refocusing the community thrust of the policy document to prevent the proliferation of violent extremism, communities feel integrated and better persuaded to more actively participate in the prevention and countering of violent extremism”, they concluded.

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