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Niger Governor-elect initiates Community Violence Reduction Strategy ahead of inauguration

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Ahead of his inauguration on May 29, the Governor-elect of Niger state, Rt Honourable   Mohammed Umar Bago, has initiated a community violence reduction strategy to curb youth restiveness in Minna, the capital of the state. 

In recent years, Minna has been a hotbed of violence perpetrated by minors and youth who are known as yan-daba.

Bago’s strategy is aimed at restoring peace and order to the city and reforming the perpetrators.

The strategy is modeled after the United Nations’ Integrated Disarmament, Demobilsation and Reintegration (DDR) concept which directly contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.1.

A sensitisation session featuring experts was however aired on 91.3 Stereo FM recently as one of activities designed to prosecute the strategy. 

The programme featured Barrister Maurice Magaji, Coordinator, Bago Economic Think-tank; Apostle Solomon K. Favour, Niger State Director, Politics and Governance for Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria; Galadima A. Bala Katcha, a Senior Lecture at IBB University, Lapai; Alhaji Umar M.K. Garba, Secretary, Minna Central Mosque;  and Dantani Mohammed Salau, Chairman, Minna Metro Command of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC).

They each spoke on the causes of the problem, best ways of tackling it and the preventive approaches that should be adopted.

Salau attributed the violence youth are perpetrating in Minna  to, first, “the weakness of our laws. Secondly, the compromise between those who matter in coordinating activities of youth from parental level to the social welfare level; to the government itself not having a policy that will reduce the aggression in that age of youth. If you look at Minna, immediately after 2019 elections,  kids that are of school age,  maybe JSS 1 or 2; some of them because of the way they are being used politically, they see schooling as a burden. They don’t see it as a convention where they should go and learn things. They are exposed to money at a tender age and then relegating education. I am saying this because immediately after elections were concluded in 2019, COVID-19 came, and they were asked to remain indoors for 24 hours for  almost a year. That necessitated their indoctrination and radicalisation into so many vices  that today we are finding it hard to control. It is not only by arresting that it could be tamed; there must also be in place a social policy that has to do with young persons. We have taken a longtime not studying the child’s culture and sub-culture. That has to end. And then we have the activities of the aged persons within the society who instigate, who benefit and support the kids and show them the negative sides of life as if that is the positive side.”

According to Katcha, “First of all, I am aligning with the saying, ‘an idle mind is a devil’s workshop’. The restiveness is not only restricted to Minna. It is happening in almost every part of Niger state. There  are a lot of youthful energies that are not being harnessed in the right way.  That is why I brought up the idea of ‘an idle man is a devil’s workshop’. Niger is a civil service state; there is no much creativity or innovation to harness the rampant youthful energies we have. That  is why it is easy to recruit or initiate youth restiveness and commit crimes. Many of the youth are jobless and nothing is being done about it. Many of them are of the view that politics is about hooliganism, thuggery and others. These are part of the problem. We don’t channel the youthful energy the right way in the state. We must begin to make them innovative and inventive by putting the the necessary tools in place.”

The scholar added that, “Many people have to be involved. Every government must have two ways of tackling youth restiveness. First is by applying ideaological state apparatus and the second one is by applying institutional state apparatus. The first one is that all the big people involved in moulding the ideology of a child like the church, the mosque, the school, the teachers, etc. all these people have to orient the child under their wings . Government has to empower the National Orientation Agency to carry out orientations in the society. And then where all these fail, the institutional state apparatus must come in. This is where the institutions like the police , the military, etc. have to come in. However, parents have he highest level of responsibility to resolve the problem. We also need to go back to the way things were: the community used to be the owner of a child, but today people personalize children. It is wrong; one person cannot train a child. Even two children cannot train a child. It takes the community to train a child.”

On his part, Magaji attributed the problem to the erosion of family values and the implementation of government policies, saying, “It has a lot to do with family values. It has a lot to do with government policies and their implementation. Before 2019, thuggery existed but it was not as much as it is now. However we forget the fact that we have had a lot of violence in our neighbouring states which has brought about the influx of people into our state.”

He said he was certainly optimistic that the incoming administration will put in place programmes and policies that will give everybody in the state a sense of belonging.

For Favour, “the youth have been exposed to money at tender age.  Some of our politicians exposed them to money and each time they don’t have money in their pockets, they look for ways to acquire money, and their way of making money is through perpetration of violence. In most cases, they create an atmosphere of violence because they want to loot people’s belongings. And when you look at it all,  it boils down to lack of jobs. In the Christian side of it, the Holy Book says, “the glory of the youth is their strength”.    They have so much strength and if the strength is not being channeled properly, it will be used wrongly. if they have jobs, I believe they  will not engage in it.

“I want to however suggest that any child caught hawking during school hours, the parents should be arrested to explain why the child is not in school. This is because education will go a long way in curbing the problem.”

According to Garba, “I believe the cause is lack of proper training by the parents. If we say it is because they don’t have jobs to do; that is not true completely. In Minna today, there are many workshops where you can go and learn a trade. Some of us were sent to the workshops to learn skills and we are doing well now. If the parents can properly train their kids right from childhood, things wouldn’t be the way they are. Take for example Aminu, the Chairman of Chanchaga local government area who is in his 30s. If he had no proper training by his parents, he wouldn’t have gotten to the stage he has reached now. I don’t accept that there are no jobs to do in Minna. Igbo and Yoruba people came to Minna with their hand works like motor mechanics and others and are now doing well. You won’t see their kids perpetrating violence because they are properly training them. We should all train kids the way we ought to do and there won’t be youth restiveness in Minna anymore.”

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