Remarks by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, on the occasion of the Kafanchan Peace Declaration, Kafanchan, 23 March 2016
Let me first welcome and thank my brother, the Governor of Plateau State, His Excellency Simon Lalong to this event. Governor Lalong and I believe that our two states, with their similar but mirror-image demographic mix of ethnicities and religions, hold the key to peace, tolerance and integration in Northern Nigeria. This is why we work on the issues of uniting our people as twins. This is part of the reason he is here, and for which I am personally grateful.
Today is a landmark day for peace. I am delighted to be here to witness and receive the Kafanchan Peace Declaration. This declaration is an emphatic statement by our communities in Southern Kaduna of their commitment to peace, and their choice of dialogue and non-violence in resolving differences.
His Excellency, the Deputy Governor represented the Government when the Inter-Communal Dialogue process for five flashpoint local government areas in Southern Kaduna was launched in November 2015. His presence at the event was to underscore the priority we attach to peace and security, and our preparedness to collaborate with and support all efforts to advance safety and harmony in our communities. As he noted at that event, peace ultimately relies on the willingness of people to diligently work for and to sustain it.
The Kaduna State Government warmly welcomes the Kafanchan Peace Declaration. I congratulate the communities and leaders of the selected local government areas of Sanga, Kachia, Kaura, Zangon Kataf and Jema’a for choosing dialogue over blows. I am glad to see 29 ethnic communities headed by 32 chairs, from these five LGAs, many of who have been involved in conflict in the past with and against each other, sitting here as one. Your dialogue sessions, we have just heard, were characterised by honest, raw, sometimes angry, sad and emotional discussions on, amongst many other possible factors, the detrimental effects on Kaduna of indigene and settler differences, farmer and pastoralist clashes, resettlement of Internally Displaced People, among many other issues.
We hope that all parties will abide by and uphold their commitments, and that as peace takes firm root, we all learn to cherish it and do all we can to nourish it. It may sound clichéd to repeat that nothing is given once and for all in human affairs, but it bears emphasis that everyone of us has duty to work for peace and to maintain it. Peace is never to be taken for granted; we must consciously uphold and promote it.
Therefore, the commitments freely entered into by the leaders, youths and women of the concerned communities must not be treated with levity. As supreme human values, we must ensure that the sanctity of human life and the primacy of liberty are respected across our state. This is non-negotiable, and we welcome the fact that the participants in the peace dialogue recognise this. The humanity and worth of every person inheres in their being, and should not be discriminated or looked down upon, on account of tribe, tongue or faith, or whether they arrived in a community recently or ages ago. The right of every citizen to live, work and prosper anywhere in Nigeria is guaranteed by our Constitution and upheld from time immemorial by our common humanity.
This and other rights accorded each person by the Constitution of this country are applicable in every inch of its territory. This cannot be abridged either by a resort to illegal communal action against an individual or group, or by seeking to apply collective responsibility to an entire group for the action of an individual or deranged group. Government looks forward to working with our communities to ensure that the rights of individuals are not impeded or violated, and that violators of such rights are not accorded communal refuge but are subjected to due process of law.
The Kafanchan Peace Declaration rightly identifies justice as a pillar of peace. I wish to assure you that this government is committed to ending impunity, and to ensure that the perpetrators of ethno-religious violence are prosecuted. This includes the specialists in hate speech who use derogatory words against others, who mobilize division acting in the mistaken belief that their bread is buttered where there is strife and turmoil.
The Kaduna State government has noted the many recommendations in the Kafanchan Peace Declaration. The Government will study the declaration in detail, and will set up a team to oversee the implementation of its commitments. But let there be no doubt that the government will continue to discharge its duty to preserve peace and concord in our communities. We are opposed to the perpetuation of ‘no-go zones’ in any of our communities, and will instead promote integration in schools and residential areas. The government is committed to fairness, in promoting investments, jobs and infrastructure across the state. We are pursuing an investment strategy anchored on our conviction that the private sector is the engine of job creation and growth. We are investing in human capital so that our people can have the training to pick the jobs the private sector is creating.
Everybody in Kaduna State knows that this government is firmly committed to upholding peace and security. My first official act as Governor was to summon an emergency State Security Council meeting on Saturday 30th May 2015 to discuss and find a solution to the violence in Southern Kaduna. We proceeded to constitute the General Martin Luther Agwai committee which did a superb job in studying the situation and laying the ground for peace. We have produced a White Paper on the reports of the Agwai and other committees, and will be implementing the recommendations, including setting up a structure in the Governor’s Office to promote reconciliation, peace and integration.
At this point, let me comment on the so-called indigene-settler issue. It is so-called because it is an elitist concept used to perpetrate division among communities and divert attention so that state resources can be looted with impunity. At the village level, our various peoples have lived in peace for centuries in spite of their ethnic and religious differences. Sadly, In both Kaduna and Plateau States, we have had political and community leaders that thrived on and encouraged division while they enriched themselves. Meanwhile, schools remained without furniture, windows, doors, water and decent toilets. Hospitals became worse than consulting clinics with infant and maternal mortality levels comparable to those of post-conflict nations like Afghanistan.
This Kaduna State administration believes that the life, property and well-being of every human being living in our state is sacred and that its protection is our responsibility. We recognize everyone living in the state as a citizen of Kaduna State and in accessing social services, have no regard for his or her historical, ethnic and religious orientation. We will therefore continue to pursue policies that exhibit equal concern for every person living in Kaduna State – policies that unite and integrate our people, educate their children free of charge, provide all affordable healthcare and and engender an environment for job creation, gender empowerment and overall societal progress. As a foundational principle, we will discourage and indeed vigorously prosecute agents of division, hatred and bitterness in our state, under any guise.
It is gratifying that the security situation in Southern Kaduna and indeed Kaduna State has improved significantly, and that the incidents of inter-communal attacks have stopped. We hope that the Kafanchan Peace Declaration will help to anchor a new awareness and commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. I have no doubt that tremendous progress can be achieved if all parties take seriously their responsibilities as outlined in the peace declaration. This is important for all the stated commitments, including the solutions proposed for farmers and pastoralists, and the need to address criminality and to strengthen law enforcement agencies.
I must say that I consider your efforts as communities in jointly coming up with this Declaration a key stepping stone towards ending violence and promoting peaceful co-existence in Kaduna State. I look forward to meeting a year from today, by God’s Grace, with the signatories to this Declaration to review the progress made. I look forward to asking the following questions in 2017 if God spares our lives. Would the communities have by then removed the impediments to integration, or at least made significant strides towards sharing markets, schools and neighborhoods? Would the legacy of fear and distrust have been replaced by a shared appreciation of diversity, mutual respect and preference for dialogue in resolving differences?
I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the facilitators of this successful dialogue process. I thank the officials of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue for helping us begin this conversation and look forward to future engagement with them. The Kaduna State government will need the Centre’s help in setting up the peace-building structure in my office to sustain the contributions of the Agwai Committee, the Peace and Reconciliation Committee and the Kafanchan Declaration. We thank the Norwegian government for its global contribution to peace-building efforts of this nature. We also thank the Government of Canada for funding the initiative, and hope it will continue to do more.
Apart from appreciating HD as an institution once again, let me on a very personal level, thank Dr. Alice Nderitu and my Barewa Colege Senior Dr.Yakubu Sankey and the entire team in the only way we know in Kaduna State. Mun gode. Ubangiji Allah Ya Saka da Alheri.
Thank you for listening.
God Bless Kaduna State.
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
Governor of Kaduna State
23rd March, 2016