By M. Peter – Jos

Nigeria is said to lose 12billion dollars annually to incessant violent conflicts in the nation’s middle belt region as economic activities in the region have been crippled.

The Country Director, Search for Common Ground, SFCG, Sher Nawaz gave the statistic on Monday in Jos at the start-up workshop for the Media for Peace Project in Plateau state.

The Media for Peace Project which is aimed at advancing a credible and peaceful media sector in the state is driven by Search for Common Ground with funding from German Cooperation, GIZ.

The project is targeting the strengthening of the capacity of traditional and new media stakeholders to report accurate and reliable information.

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According to Nawaz, “Because of insecurity in the middle belt, Nigeria losses 12bn dollars per year, if that insecurity is solved, the household income in the middle belt will be increased from 60% to 210% so if we want to help the government of Nigeria and Plateau state in particular, we need to tackle insecurity.”

“How do we do that? There are many aspects to this insecurity but one aspect comes out very strongly, that it is a conflict for resources it is not a conflict of anything else. People have coined the narratives that are not true; some say it is a conflict between Muslims and Christians why is that not true? Because in Zamfara, it is Muslim herders and Muslim farmers.”

“Yes, this conflict about resources takes a manifestation of inter-religious conflict but that is not the cause. The cause is the struggle for resources. We know that 320,000 hectares of land become desertified every year in Nigeria, we have 20million cattle but we have one million hectares of grazing land.”

“That is not sustainable, we realised that this insecurity needs to be tackled that is why we are interfacing with the media to introduce conflict sensitive reporting, half of the conflicts and their effects would be gone. Why do ordinary people think herders and farmers are their enemies? Because of the narratives in the media, we are here to introduce peace building in the work of the media.”

Nigeria loses $12billion to conflict in middle belt - Group Facilitators and participants at the workshop.

Various stakeholders gave their views on how the media could contribute in de-escalating violence and mitigate the effects of violent conflicts with the Plateau Peace Building Agency through its Programme Director, Godwin Okoko calling on citizens to embrace peace as much is being done to curb violence and sustain peace in the State.

There was also a panel discussion on the theme: Media and citizens, role in countering dangerous speech.