Emphasis on conflict early warning system: The pathway to sustainable
peace in Nigeria
By Steve Ogwu Agbo
–National Conflict Early Warning Early Response System, Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution, Abuja.
The country’s multi-ethnic composition, socio-cultural and religious diversity as well as unabated struggle for resources and power, have disposed her to complex conflict. The attendant devastation, misery, frustration has negatively manifested in lack of development and economic stagnation. Other consequences include the conflict socialization and the resultant communal clashes, violent agitations, militia struggles, banditry, cult gang violence, terrorism, among others.
The above has made the search for sustainable peace in Nigeria an imperative course. The steps taken by various groups including government and civil society organisations to achieve peace in Nigeria are not yielding sustainable result due to various reasons including wrong approach. To ensure sustainable development and security, more emphasis should be placed on conflict early warning early responses system (CEWERS) as a non-kinetic conflict prevention approach.
Conflict early warning early responses system constitutes the sum of actions that leads to seamless response to conflict indicator reports by responders. The actions range from indicator monitoring and reporting to analysis and dispatching of early warning. The detailed information or report sent to the personnel that are expected to promptly respond; mostly the security agents is the early warning, while the process, steps and channels for sending the report including the human component is the system.
The various experiences shared by victims of violence, personnel in the frontline and various conflict monitors have revealed that availability of the right conflict indicators report in ears of the right people at the right time is a very powerful tool for preventing violence. From the principle of human security, it is important to note that the survival, livelihood and dignity of people are the fundamental basis for national, regional and international peace and development.
In the present dispensation, several channels can be used to monitor indicators or sign of conflicts. Available record shows that the intensity of violence in many parts of the world has flared in the last few years largely due to wrong deployment technology for mobilization of violence. It is therefore imperative to embrace the information-based conflict prevention option typical of early warning system to facilitate counter violence operations.
Since the last few decades, the dynamics, patterns and intensity of violence perpetrated by conflict foot militias have greatly increased corresponding to the extent of their use of technology. As a result, the various security agencies are making efforts to adopt relevant technologies to improve on their effectiveness. In addition, empirical researches have revealed that the speed of deployment of technology for conflict mobilization can only be matched by comprehensive information based conflict prevention technology systems coupled with effective and seamless response mechanism.
Apart from the fact that it is the responsibility of government to provide security for citizens, and although, successive governments in Nigeria have promised to ensure that citizens have sustainable peace in their communities, available facts have shown that several communities that were peaceful have become battle grounds. While some communities are facing increased tension due to influx of illicit arms, others are being used as illegal training sites for would-be militias and cult gangs on weapon handling. The presence of mass of unemployed youth in several communities infused with hatred, bitterness, ethnic and religious discrimination, as well as perception of marginalisation have created buffer zones for social frictions, communal conflicts, and the infamous heinous herders-farmers violence, as well as conflict socialisation with attendant manifestation of violence at the slightest provocation. In the Nigerian context, conflicts are tied around several factors that cannot be eliminated by use of force or kinetic option.
To achieve the above target, It is important to place emphasis on the deployment of conflict early warning early response for effective conflict prevention. This can be done by ensuring that we establish conflict resilience mechanisms in various communities to enable us monitor and identify indicators before they assume dangerous and violent dimension. The process would lead the government into understanding the conflict context of the communities including the various trigger factors that are to be condoned off before they would contaminate the place with violent ideologies. Improving the capacity of residents on conflict sensitivity and prevention, and indicators monitoring is also a necessary precursor for community resilience. Community resilience mechanisms enhance the capacity of residents to notice conflict indicators and illicit movement of weapons and the dealers within and around them.
Government’s emphasis and investment in the conflict early warning early response system (EWERS) option for conflict prevention will support the establishment of conflict resilience mechanism in communities, enhance the effectiveness of EWERS through rich conflict indicator reporting, improve stakeholders coordination and encourage synergy among the critical primary responders. While it might be necessary for government to deploy kinetic force for peace enforcement, emphasis on the EWER system approach would have positive impact on the communities’ conflict ecosystem. The show of force and military deployment for peace enforcement is rather a surface and immediate action required to restore peace and order. It is a surface option and does not possess the depth required to understand the community’s social fabric, hence it cannot sufficiently adequate solution other than peace enforcement.
In addition, the present administration of President Bola Tinubu will rightly achieve a milestone in many sectors especially in Agriculture and improvement of standard of living of Nigerians, if considerable investment and emphasis is placed on the deployment of conflict early warning early response for effective conflict prevention in Nigeria. “Prevention, it is said, is better than cure”. It is obvious that the present administration is trying to restore the hope of citizens with minimal resources. A lot can be achieved through deployment of EWER system for effective conflict prevention. Firstly, the huge investment on security deployment and mobilization for peace enforcement, as well as the loss of invaluable officers and hardware running into billions on naira by Nigerians can be saved, as only a fraction of same is enough for operational conflict prevention. Information based conflict prevention system will facilitate suitable and peaceful agricultural environment for farmers who have been chased out of their farms by conflict militias to return to their base. This will no doubt improve the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), reduce cost of food items and agricultural raw materials. Also, the attendant spiral effect on reduction in the cost of industrial products like beverages, yoghurts and others will create a boost in the economy at all levels.
Furthermore, the establishment of National Early Warning Response Group (EWRG) by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution on August 1, 2023 in collaboration with the PARTNER project Consortium sponsored by USAID, after the National Strategic Stakeholders Engagement Workshop was a major step taken to facilitate coordination of stakeholders and seamless response to early warning in Nigeria. The Conflict Early Warning Early Response System can achieve sustainable effectiveness, if it is regulated by law. While the need to encourage effective coordination of stakeholders and prompt response to early warning by responders may be a commendable step, its steps should be taken to make it an issue of policy. As other sectors are regulated by various acts of the parliament, the need to have a peace framework that would define peace practice and operations in the country cannot be over emphasised. The task of getting the peace policy has been largely accomplished by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution which has produced a draft of the National Peace Policy (NPP) that is awaiting the approval of Executive arm of government. With the strength of character, knowledge about the content of the NPP and working relationship of some NASS members with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution we are quite confident that the 10th National Assembly would promptly ensure the passage of the bill into law.
▪︎ Agbo, a conflict resolution expert, can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel – 08023448485