OPINION: CEPEJ; Building Sustainable Peace and Security in a troubled Nation

Mr. Jerome-Mario Utomi  

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

From the approach, the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), a Pan African non-governmental, non-religious, non-political and not-profit civil society organization, utilizes internationally and locally identified strategies, partners with relevant stakeholders within and outside Nigeria, to promote activities geared towards peace building, advocacy for human rights, good governance and gender mainstreaming, sustainable environmental management and peaceful and safer society, two sets of separate but similar opinions are deducible

First, it may not be an over statement to conclude that Buzz Hargrove, a man that fought to create a more humane Canada, had the group in mind when he declared that ordinary people can never expect to achieve political influence unless a union, or organized body closely aligned with them, goes to bat for them. And individual will simply not be in a position to challenge or change the system or any political say, unless they act collectively or are assisted by responsive and responsible organisations.

The second point is that the organization understands so well the 2030 sustainable agenda, a United Nation initiative and successor programme to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- with a collection of 17 global goals formulated  among other aims to promote and cater for people, peace, planet, and poverty.  And has at its centre; partnership and collaboration, ecosystem thinking, co-creation and alignment of various intervention efforts by the public and private sectors and civil society.

Indeed, aside from using commendable programmes such as skill acquisitions, football/essay competitions, scholarship schemes, town hall meetings/Rallies/Workshops/Conferences/Seminars/research and development directed at diverse beneficiaries and stakeholders including women, youth, physically challenged and the aged population, to promote capacity building among individuals and communities in the Niger Delta-a region  reputed for fierce wars between ethnic and social forces since oil was discovered in commercial quantities, the group have brought about sustainable peace among host communities and other stakeholders engaged in the oil exploration and production in the region, brought about improvement in the socioeconomic well-being of the region and presently at the fore-front ensuring that President Muhammadu Buhari signs the Petroleum Industry Bill as passed by the outgone 8th Assembly to law.

By these steps, the group is taking the vital early steps in the creative process. They are beginning to exercise their social responsibility needed in nation building. They are exercising their mind and putting their creative power at work. By this search for peace and formula that will transform, revitalize, renew and bring about national development, they add zest and interest in the lives of the citizens.

This effort becomes particularly commendable when one remembers that we are presently in a country where the nation’s leadership has manifested appreciable inadequacies of philosophy to challenge the security and economic logics. A failure that have qualified the country as a people that allowed myriads of sociopolitical contradictions  conspire directly and indirectly to give it unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace among her various sociopolitical groups.

From its recent activities, CEPEJ, like other development minded groups has proved to the world that Non-Profitable Organizations are not just another platform for disseminating the truth or falsehood, information, foodstuff and other relief materials that can be controlled at will. Rather, it is a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas; in the same way, that government is a decentralized body for the promotion and protection of the people’s life chances. It is a platform, in other words, for development that the government must partner with instead of vilification.

Separate from its belief that by collaborating with other civil society organizations, Private/Public Sectors and through placement of rural communities at the center of their developmental activities, marginalized communities in Nigeria and by extension Africa can feed itself, protect her environmental and natural resources, educate, care for and protect its children, promote the economic well-being of the people and live peacefully, CEPEJ, had  since its establishment on January 15, 2010, particularly placed priority on finding lasting solution to the troubled Niger Delta where communal rights to a clean environment and access to clean water supplies are being violated; where oil industry has abandoned thousands of polluted sites ;where Aquifiers and other water supply sources are being adversely affected by industrial or other activities which need to be recovered while communities are adequately compensated for their losses.

Interestingly,similar to the recent  decision by The Kukah Centre (TKC)’s  signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with the Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Management (IPSCM) of the Taraba State University, Jalingo, Taraba state, aimed at tackling conflict in Taraba and beyond, CEPEJ, through its National Cordinator, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, recently sponsored a personal bill currently before the Delta state House of Assembly(DTHA), which among other provisions seeks for the creation of The Coastal Area Development Agency (CADA)- an agency that will have integrated development of core coastal communities as its prime and focal  responsibility while bringing the violations and wicked neglect of the region to an end.

In like manner, the organization’s realization that the nation currently faces tremendous security odds particularly in the North Eastern part of the country with an improbable chance of survival prompted it to co-host a conference on security with the United Nation Information Centre (UNIC), recently, in Lagos to mark the years’ International Day of Peace-with the  theme; Climate Action for Peace.

And as envisaged, the gathering created new awareness – providing a link to the fact that; the current conflict in the North East Nigeria is not unrelated to the changes in climate in that region over time. As well as underline climate change challenge also sets the stage for the farmer and herder violence witnessed in parts of West Africa and  many countries that face violent conflicts in Africa: Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, the Sudan (Darfur), Mali and Central Africa Republic.

While defining climate change as changes in these weather patterns over several decades or more which makes a place become warmer or receives more rain or gets drier, two other concerns made the  gathering.

First is the awareness on the dangers of, and warning on the urgent need to address climate changes which have become even clearer with the release of a major report in October 2018 by the world leading scientific body for the accessment of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC), warning  that in order to avoid catastrophic warming , we must not reach 1.5C and 2oC scenarios. Noting that by working to limit, the increase in average global average temperatures to 1.5oC, the IPCC states that we should for example; reduce the number of people both exposed to climate related risks and susceptible to poverty by upto several hundreds of million by 2050; protect 10 million people from risks related to sea-levels; reduce the proportion of the global population exposed to increase in water stress by up to 50%, or one in every 25 people on this planet.

The second is the groups identification of factors such as;act of judging and condemning fellow citizens because they are from a certain tribe; social discrimination; general tendency of public institutions not being able to manage the affairs and public resources; the inability to accept one’s ideas or way of life because of ethnic considerations; and public officials use of public office not as an avenue for public  good but as an opportunity for private gains, as major factors fueling hostility in the country.

The burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas for electricity, heat, and transportation, the gathering agreed  is the primary source of human-generated emissions. A second major source is deforestation, which releases sequestered carbon into the air. It’s estimated that logging, clear-cutting, fires, and other forms of forest degradation contribute to 20 percent of global carbon emissions. Though our planet’s forests and oceans absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and other processes, these natural carbon sinks can’t keep up with our rising emissions. The resulting buildup of greenhouse gases is causing alarmingly fast warming worldwide. Higher temperatures lead to melting of ice which in turn leads to sea rise, floods and storms and other disasters.The changes in weather patterns, drought and flooding affect livelihoods’.

As to what should be done to this appalling situation, it was reported that the UN Secretary-General has made climate action a major part of his global advocacy, calling on all member states to double their ambition to save our planet.

While this is ongoing, we are all called to adjust in psychological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. We need to bring in changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change. In simple terms, countries and communities need to develop adaptation solution and implement actions to respond to the impact of climate change that are already happening, as well as prepare for future impact.

Very important also, the key for the solution to climate change problem rests in decreasing the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere in reducing the current concentration of carbon-dioxiode by enhancing sinks (eg increasing the area of forests). As individuals, we must learn more about global warming and how it is affecting us and the community. Make demands to the leaders through advocacy and other action-leaders at all levels have roles to play related to adaptation and mitigation.

Most important than all these, to truly enjoy peace in Africa, we must first recognize that no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without no fairness and equity!

Utomi, Writes Via; Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com  

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