El-Rufai denies muzzling media, freedom of speech, warns against divisive reports
Remarks By Samuel Aruwan (Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kaduna State) at the opening ceremony of ICPR/UNDP Workshop on Conflict Prevention and Peace Building in Nigeria, at De Neville Hotel Kaduna, on Tuesday,15th August, 2017.
It is with delight that I address you today as you commence this three-day workshop on Conflict Prevention and Peace-building in Nigeria. As Civil Society Organizations, your active participation and engagement in this area is most welcome. We must all unite in building a stable and peaceful nation in our quest to develop our economy. As you all know, development only strives in a peaceful atmosphere.
Nigeria is a multi-cultural, multi-ethic and multi religious country. This diversity which should serve as our source of strength has been manipulated by many merchants of conflicts for pernicious reasons. Today we have voices promoting hatred along ethnic, sectional and religious lines. These voices have made our people to mostly identify themselves by their ethnic, sectional and religious leanings ahead of our common humanity.
Nigeria has lost so much in human life and wealth to violent conflicts. Our experience in Kaduna since 1980 is a pathetic one. We have had 12 religious and ethnic conflicts in different parts of the state in the span of 37 years. Sadly, no one is ever punished for any of these. Reports of Judicial Commissions of Inquiries have not been implemented,leaving perpetrators of such crimes to work free in the society. This has led to a recurrent cycle of impunity and more violence in the state.
While working as a government to provide security for the people, we are also directing our attention to addressing the causes of conflicts and how to contain them for good. As a Government, one of the steps we have taken is to pass a law to establish the Kaduna State Peace Commission that will take proactive measures in developing strategies that would promote peace and harmonious co-existence.
Additionally, the Commission will work towards conflict prevention and non-violent intervention, mediation and peaceful resolution of conflict and disputes in communal and inter-group levels across the state. Other steps include support for all security agencies operating in the state, ending the impunity by ensuring, that anyone found to have instigate violence in whatever way is brought to justice. And also engaging and partnering with religious and traditional institutions and other critical stakeholders in peace building.
Ladies and gentlemen, you all know that the role journalists and the media play are very critical to the promotion of peace or conflicts. The call for responsive journalism therefore becomes an imperative one.
Contrary to the false assertions from some quarters, the government of Kaduna state does not seek to muzzle the free press or journalists in the performance of their duty. As a government, it is our constitutional mandate to protect against actions that disrupt the society such as irresponsible journalism that spread falsehood, publishes inciting stories and turn our people against one another.
I am convinced that the active participation of Civil Society Organizations in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building will help the government in fostering harmonious living and peaceful co-existence in our country.
We must all rise against voices that promote division and those who promote hate speeches which incites people to violence against those they differ from.
People must learn to tolerate one another and respect others even when they differ on political ideology, religion or tribe.
Furthermore, I will like to highlight the following points as key to complement initiative for sustainable peace and development:
• Peace is every body’s business and there is need to leverage on the roles of the CSOs to also work individually and collectively to build peace in Nigeria especially against the backdrop of the current challenges (separatist agitations, ultimatums, farmer-herder clashes, communal crisis, calls for re-structuring, Boko Haram etc) that our country is facing.
• Appeal for reason and moderation from all persons in the country to reinforce the need for peace, tolerance and cooperation for the unity and progress of our dear country.
• The CSOs to cooperate with government to denounce hate speeches, radicalization and violent extremism.
• Underscores the need for the CSOs to support the government on efforts to ensure effective enforcement of laws that prohibit hate and divisive speeches that constitute a threat to our constitutional and collective right to live in a democracy founded on free expression.
• The conflicts in the world and indeed Nigeria are getting more complicated by the day and increasing in frequency of occurrence. There is then the need to improve the skills of the CSOs in order to make their impact more effective as they assist the government in achieving its role of ensuring the peace and security of Nigerians.
It is my hope that you will have a fruitful deliberation on this important topic. It is therefore my pleasure to declare this workshop open.