Nextier urges FG address rural conflicts to promote growth

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By Mathew Dadiya

Public policy solutions firm, Nextier has advised both federal and subnational governments to critically address the challenge of violence and conflicts in rural areas as these have unpleasant consequences for the growth and development of urban communities and cities in Nigeria.

The advice is contained in a report titled ‘Rural-Push, Urban-Pull: A Nightmare for Big Cities’ published by the Non-Governmental Organisation on Tuesday in Abuja.

Senior Policy and Research Analyst at Nextier, Kenneth Maduagwu in the report, noted that the more rural violence and poverty spread and linger, the more its dwellers flock to urban areas in search of safety and assistance, such that Nigerian big cities face the congestion, urban poverty and crime that comes with it.

Maduagwu pointed out that the allure of urban centres begins to wane as the unchecked spread of violence in rural areas begins to make way in urban areas because security agencies are stretched thin in combat action; and urban centres are no longer safe havens.

“For instance, FCT-Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, is recording a surge in ransom kidnappings and “one chance” menace, where passengers in transit are held at gunpoint until their personal belongings and monies in banks are collected”, the senior policy research analyst said.

He stressed that the rural-urban migration and its implications on big cities mean rural violence is spreading at an alarming rate, exposing its dwellers to increased poverty and forced rural-urban migration; while the inability to stall the spread of rural violence will mean that urban areas, presumably buffered by their geographic position and government presence, are not infallible.

According to him, besides the uptick in rural violence mirrors Nigeria’s expanding conflict theatre and a call to action.

To address these challenges, Maduagwu’s report recommends that looking at the conflict drivers like ungoverned spaces, lack of basic amenities, and income-generating activities that stall rural development and, invariably, stability, will help government find lasting solutions.

According to him: “The National Boundary Commission, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Mines and Steel, Border Communities Development Agency, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, National Council on Climate Change and security organisations all have essential roles in ensuring rural peace and development.

“Rural Nigeria possesses many untapped resources or is susceptible to unregulated activities such as illegal oil refineries and mining. The government needs to develop robust and tailored approaches to rural development and governance in Nigeria. This will reduce the vulnerability of rural areas.

“Leveraging resources in rural areas will open them up to new opportunities, higher income wages for dwellers and availability of basic amenities. Many rural dwellers may not fancy the allure of the urban centres but are left with no choice due to poverty and violence.

“There is a need to revive local administration and bring the government closer to the people. Local governance gaps predispose rural locations to poor basic amenities, reduced government interventions and state-society discords.

“Low-income housing plans, healthcare and effective transportation systems in urban areas will cater to the needs of urban migrants and those on minimum wage.

“Old conflicts and grievances are manifesting in new forms. Farmer-herder conflicts result in farmland destruction, cattle rustling, village raiding, and bans on open grazing. Secessionist agitations have also become violent. There is a need to address the prolonged conflict drivers in the rural areas.

“There is a need to improve natural resource management and governance in Nigeria. Economic pressure, politics, and the impact of climate change are increasing reliance on natural resources.

“Competition over natural resources is becoming fiercer and throwing communities into prolonged wars. With many of these struggles happening in rural areas with dependence on land resources, tensions are inevitable. Relevant government agencies must take the lead to engage communities prone to these types of issues proactively.”