By Peter Duru
Makurdi —The United Nations Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, UNRC, in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, has said Nigeria is living through uncertain times, given the challenges of insecurity in parts of the country.
He spoke, weekend, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, where he led a delegation to witness the signing of the Benue State Peace Building and Reconciliation Commission Bill, by Governor Samuel Ortom, in commemoration of the International Day of Peace.
Schmale, who emphasised the importance of peace, noted that the International Day of Peace provided the world “with an opportunity to reflect on the main reason the United Nations was established – to promote international peace and security. This year the theme is ‘End racism. Build peace.’ For Nigeria, this should enable us to reflect on the importance of actively addressing discrimination and exclusion which can lead to breaches of peace especially in local communities.
“It is a day for all Nigerians to come together and promote the values of tolerance, respect, reconciliation, and human dignity, and remember that being peaceful is the responsibility of every person.
“As Eleanor Roosevelt stated during the formation of the UN, ‘it is not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.’ There are many Nigerians who have been working at it and we want to celebrate them today.
These are the peace builders who are often overlooked, but who work tirelessly to strengthen community-level resiliencies in the midst of conflict and humanitarian situations.
“For those supporting peace processes, dialogues, mediations and negotiations to end violence and preserve life in every conflict setting in Nigeria, we commend and salute you. With an estimated 374 ethnic groups and about 552 living languages spoken by over 206 million people, there is no limit to what Nigeria can achieve if it puts its mind to engaging all citizens, leveraging on education, culture, and government support.
“However, we must also acknowledge that Nigeria is living through uncertain times with ongoing security dynamics in almost every corner of the country that impact our lives and livelihoods–from the insurgency in the North-East to the farmer-herder crisis along the Middle Belt to resource-based conflict in the South-South to identity-based conflict in the South East.
“If we accept that there is no peace without development and no development without peace, the UN would also like to use International Peace Day to ring the alarm bell on the need for transformative change in Nigeria.
“Ending discrimination, intolerance and hate speech based on one’s ethnicity, religion or gender is an imperative to more equitable, accountable and responsive societies.
“As UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres has said ‘Instead of fighting each other, we should be working to defeat our true enemies: racism, poverty, inequality, conflict, the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.”