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Stemming violent extremism in Kogi: The 2020 Youth Peace Camp Initiative.

Stemming violent extremism in Kogi: The 2020 Youth Peace Camp Initiative.
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Some non governmental organisations and foreign technical partners are collaborating to address problems associated with violent extremism in Kogi state. Thenigerianpost reports on one of such.

Obviously, building peace involves concerted effort by the government at all levels to address the root causes of violence and ensure that people have freedom from fear of humiliation, conflicts and war.Peace is therefore an essential factor of human life as a peaceful environment is  not only critical to society, it is also a panacea for economic growth and the development of a nation. This is why individuals and  organisations endeavour to play significant roles in peace building.

Stepping up the campaign

ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) is a national non-governmental, non-partisan, non-religious, civil society organisation and an affiliate member of the ActionAid International Federation with presence in 45 countries.The organisation had been making concerted effort in solidarity with people living in poverty and exclusion to achieve social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication towards achieving a just, equitable and sustainable world in which every person enjoys the right to a life of dignity, freedom from poverty, peaceful coexistence and all forms of oppression.Among the several efforts already put in place by ActionAid Nigeria in Kogi and Nasarawa states were the initiation of Youth Peace Camp which were in pursuance of the ‘System and Structure Strengthening Approach against Radicalisation to Violent Extremism otherwise known as SERVE II Project.The project aimed at producing peace ambassadors in communities across the two states was in strong partnership with Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change in Development (PIBCID), Global Peace Development (GPD) and Beacon Youth Initiative (BYI) with funding from Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF).The 2020 Youth Peace Camping was the second edition after a successful hosting of the first edition in 2019 in Kogi state where 500 peace ambassadors were produced. ActionAid Nigeria however brought together young people from project communities across the three senatorial districts of Kogi to support the participants in initiating social cohesion and a sense of purpose approach to the peace building process as a key for preventing conflict and enabling stability and sustainable peace.Interestingly, during the five days 2020 camping held recently at Salem University campus in Lokoja, the 500 participants were exposed to experiential learning process to enable them acquire competences in the fields of intercultural and religious learning, dialogue, Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) within a human rights framework.In addition, the youth were also taught various forms of capacity strengthening such as teaching, coaching, mentoring, psychosocial support, skills acquisition, among others.

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Justification for the campaign

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the 2020 edition, the director of Organizational Effectiveness, ActionAid Nigeria, who also held the position of camp director,  Fumilayo Oyefusi, revealed that from the last year youth peace camp in the state, the organisation has recorded so much progress in the communities in terms of peace building and prevention of violent extremism. She stressed that most of the camp members in last year’s exercise have become peace ambassadors in their various communities, saying that most of them who are trained on some skills are already using the trades to earn a living. “We believe that if our youths are economically empowered, it would be difficult for them to engage in violent activities, it would also be difficult for anyone to use them or engage them as thugs in their various communities.”We are happy that the skills the 2019 campers gained, they were able to put it in practice and some of them are back to the camp because we have 10 percent of last year campers that were also invited for the 2020 youth peace camp because of their performance in the first edition of the programme.”A programme like this is being initiated to build the capacity of youths to enable them fend for themselves and prevent violent extremism.She commended the state government especially Governor Yahaya Bello for his support since the  organisation started the SERVE I project and now SERVE II in the state. “We thank him for all the support we have been enjoying in the state and we are very willing to do more in the interest of humanity,” she said.

Further remarks

The project officer for System Structure Strengthening Approach against Radicalisation to violent Extremism (SARVE11) project, Mr Anicentus Atakpu in his remarks said the objectives of the youth camp is to stimulate participants understanding of their personal and collective identities and their roles in preventing conflict at all levels.Reeling out the objectives of the camping, Atakpu said  the camping was organised to enable participants to share personal experiences of conflict and violence and coping strategies in a positive and safe atmosphere of living and learning together. “To motivate and support participants in their role as multipliers and peer leaders in peace- building activities with young people.“To strengthen the role of ActionAid Nigeria through Its SARVE11 project in Its efforts towards strengthening youth work in preventing violent extremism, social cohesion and intercultural and religious dialogue in the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250 on youth, peace and security.”Speaking further the project officer told the participants that the difference between himself and the participants is the opportunity that came  his way, noting that there are people in the camp that if they have such opportunity, they would do better than him.He however emphasised that all they need in life to excel is opportunity, maintaining that  they cannot excel if they are not prepared.Atakpu who stated that the camping is a life changing opportunity, added that success is the opportunity that meet preparedness and  urged them to be prepared and be a youth that aside certificate qualification should also endeavour to acquire skills that would engage them and remove them from the poverty that some people capitalise on to involve them in nasty, unlawful behaviours.The executive director, Participation Initiative for Behavioural Change (PIBCID), Halima Oiza Sadiq in her address declared that 500 youth from six local government areas cutting across the three senatorial districts of Kogi state took part in the 2020 youth camp that lasted for one week. “The 2020 Youth Peace Camp  hosted 500 youths from six local governments and twelve communities across the three senatorial districts of the state.”The sole aim of the camp is to orient the youth on how best they can face the public. It is also an opportunity for them to build their resilience towards violent extremism.”The camp also affords them the opportunity to mingle, interact and get a take-home that would improve their  lives and well-being after they leave the camp.”The  programme which is ‘System Structure Strengthening Approach against Radicalisation to Violent Extremism is to prevent violent extremism and one of the possible ways is to inculcate the attitude of peace in the mind  of our youth.”And to achieve these, we believe that it is imperative and expedient to create that enabling environment for them to mingle together and cohabit so that at the end of the five days camp, we will be able to raise 500 youth ambassadors from the camp who will use their experience and knowledge gained from the camp to prevent violent extremism in their various  communities.

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Participants laud scheme

Adejo Musa Atuluku, a participant from Kogi-east while commenting on the camping thanked the organisers for creating an enduring opportunity for all the participants to learn a trade of their choice, assuring that he would put to use all the knowledge gained from the camp.Also a female participant from the central senatorial district, Aisha Yusuf, advised the state government to key into some of the activities of ActionAid Nigeria and PIBCID to better the lives of the downtrends in the state.”Honestly, ActionAid Nigeria in partnership with PIBCID  have really touched many lives in many communities across Kogi state. They created several sources of empowerment for us and the effort has gone a long way in ameliorating the suffering of many people in the rural areas.”We are appealing to the state government to give maximum support to the organisations to enable them do more for us,” she stated.While commending the organisers of the 2020 Youth Peace Camp for putting the youths on a threshold of maintaining peace in the communities, Aisha promised to be a peace ambassador in Osara, her community.The Youth Peace Camp is a place where the organisations build a capacity of a young person to enable them to recognise the prevention of violent extremism. The campaign was initiated in pursuance of the SERVE Project which was started in the state and now being  extended to Nasarawa.


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