A cross section of stakeholders at the event.

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Jos – Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong has expressed optimism that there would be lasting peace and an end to recurring violence in Bassa Local Government between the Irigwe natives and Fulani herders.

The chronic violent conflicts have led to the loss of lives and the destruction of property, farmlands, and livestock.

Governor Lalong who witnessed the signing of the expression of commitment to peace between the Irigwe and Fulani communities in Bassa Local Government Area said he was happy that there is a genuine and collective effort to address the spate of violence that has grossly affected people of the area and the State in general.

He said, “Today’s gathering which is at the instance of the leadership of the Irigwe and Fulani is for these two communities to tell the whole world that they had tested the bitter pills that violent conflict serves but are now willing, ready, and able to chart a new course for themselves by first forgiving the past to reconcile the future”.

He said upon coming into office in 2015, his administration inherited a crisis but was determined to confront the challenges head-on, which enables it to immediately develop a policy framework in a way that moves away from the reactive approach to being proactive.

He said, “The nearly two-decades experience of violent conflict between Irigwe and Fulani in the Irigwe Chiefdom has given my administration sleepless nights. Yet, we never for once relented in our effort and desire to expand the frontiers of peace and security in these communities in particular and, in the entire Bassa Local Government Area in general. My involvement in the mediation of this conflict was hinged on the ongoing interventions of both the Plateau State Peace Building Agency and the State Inter-Religious Council which have worked closely with other stakeholders, including external actors to bring peace and stability to communities ravaged by conflicts.”

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While commending the Brra Ngwe Irigwe (the Paramount Ruler of the Irigwe), Rev. Ronku Aka for his commitment to the pursuit of peace as well as other stakeholders including the Fulani representatives, the Governor urged the parties to take full ownership of the peace document stressing, “It is your document and you must ensure that you enlighten and sensitize your respective communities on the importance of respecting all the articles contained therein. Be assured that on its part, Government will support and monitor your commitment towards the implementation of this Agreement.”

Although this is not the first time that a peace agreement is signed in the Chiefdom and the agreement has not been honored, the Governor warned that the “Government will not relent on its duty if maintaining law and order and ensuring that those who attempt to truncate the implementation of the peace agreement are dealt with according to the law.”

In his remarks, the Brra Ngwe Irigwe thanked the Governor for his foresight in setting up the Peace Building Agency and empowering it to work towards resolving conflicts and restoring peace and security among the Irigwe and Fulani in Bassa as well as other parts of the State and added, “The people of Bassa want to put the ugly events of the past behind them and live in peace and unity with one another and pursue their legitimate means of livelihood without molestation.”

Chairman of the Bassa Internal Peace and Security Committee Mr. John Power and the Co-Chairman Alh. Ya’u Idris signed the peace agreement on behalf of the Irigwe and Fulani communities.

Those who also signed as witnesses include Chairman Bassa Local Government, Stephen Igmala, Chairman Plateau Inter-Religious Council, Prof. Pandam Yamsat and his Co-Chairman represented by Emir of Kanam, President Irigwe Development Association, Chairman MACBAN, Kaduna Peace Commission, Commander Operation Safe Haven, Police Commissioner, PIDAN, Inter-Faith Mediation Centre, United States Institute for Peace among others.

Secretary to the Government of the State Prof. Danladi Atu said the Governor has directed him and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to immediately put in place machinery for Gazetting and working out the policy framework for immediate implementation.

Director-General, Plateau State Peace Building Agency, Joseph Lengmang said the Government will continue to count on the support of the parties to implement the Peace Agreement to further deepen the peace in the area by providing critical social infrastructures that would, in turn, strengthen social cohesion among the people.

He said the Governor has also directed the Plateau State Peace Building Agency to work in conjunction with security agencies as well as local and international partners to support the safe return and resettlement of all victims of violent conflict in the Chiefdom and environs as well as the provision of psycho-social support and additional training to youth groups and women.