The failure of the country’s ruling elite to find a lasting solution to the crises caused by citizenship, identity and political inclusion is the reason for the continued restiveness and bloodshed in Jos, a recently released report has said.
The report titled “Curbing Violence in Nigeria: The Jos Crises” by the think-tank, International Crisis Group, said measures aimed at resolving the crises from “local and national authorities have proven mostly ineffective.”
It blamed both the Federal and Plateau State Government for failing to promptly act on the recommendations of the several judicial commissions of inquiry constituted to get to the root of the issue. According to the report, politicians have not matched their public tough talks with actions as the masterminds of the crises have never been held accountable.
“Tough public speeches have not been translated into tangible political action against instigators and perpetrators: none of the suspects named by the various commissions have been prosecuted, and impunity continues to feed violence,” the report stated.
The report was particularly critical of the incumbent governor of the state, Jonah Jang who it says by his action creates an impression that he is on a “personal and communal mission.”
“He told the indigenes to stop selling land to settlers and relocated the Gbong Gwom’s palace from Jos North to Jos South, where the former have numerical superiority. Major political appointments and the location of physical infrastructures tend to obey this communal logic. Because of this, many who do not belong to his Berom ethnic and Du sub-ethnic groups see him as an obstacle to lasting peace and stability,” the report stated.
The report said Mr. Jang’s approach is contrary to that of his predecessor, Joshua Dariye, “who appeared to have reached out to the Hausa community, with many members of his executive council making inroads into the metropolis to recruit informants who provided early warning signals that helped prevent conflict.”
The report also stated that the constitutional ambiguity over the definition of the term “indigene” and “residency” meant that many inhabitants of the state are denied their citizenship rights.
“The 1999 constitution failed to address this problem and remains ambiguous. The indigene principle promoted in Section 147 (3) appears to be in conflict with the citizenship provisions of Section 15 (3) (b), which stipulates that ‘for the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the role of the State to secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation’. The Nigerian state has not ensured implementation of this provision,” it stated.
The report said the said the politicization of the certificate of indigeneity by the state government since 1999 has further helped to aggravate the tension in the state.
“The certificate of indigeneity is weighty and those without it are deprived of meaningful citizenship. The actual number of those affected is not known, but all of them are considered as non-indigenes or settlers. They suffer discrimination in recruitment into federal institutions, admissions to most of the federal universities and education at military academies. At sub-federal levels, where the practice is most rife, they are denied access to schools, health care, roads and academic scholarships and are discriminated against in access to jobs. Finally, the door to participation in local politics is virtually shut against them,” the report stated.
Jos North: hot spot of violence
The report identified Jos North Local government as the brewing pot for almost all the violence in the state. It stated that the creation of the local government in 1991 by the Babangida junta tipped the scale in favour of the Hausa-Fulani settlers thereby incurring the wrath of the Berom, Anaguta and Afizere indigenes.
“Virtually all inter-communal conflicts have been centred on, and originated from, Jos North, the biggest, richest and most contentious LGA in Plateau state. Its creation was a watershed in the politics and governance of Jos city. Created at the insistence of the Hausa-Fulani community in Jos, the exercise, by design or default, fundamentally altered the city’s political equation in two major ways. “Indigenous peoples were no longer the most populous in Jos North and they no longer had total control over the palace of their paramount leader, the Gbong Gwom, located in the heart of Jos city. The decision also gave the settlers the space for group expression that they had always clamoured for. The local council’s creation came at a huge cost. Relations between the indigenes and settlers became increasingly strained; latent tension was awakened and, over time, became unduly politicised,” it stated.
It stated that matters eventually spiraled out of order after the election of Frank Bagudu Tardy in 1999 as the Jos North local council chairman. He was the first ‘indigene’ to hold the position.
The report also stated that religion is a secondary factor in crises though it admitted that it has played a greater role in fueling the conflict since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
The Hausa-Fulani settlers are predominantly Muslims while the Berom, Anaguta and Afizere indigenes are mainly Christians.
It stated that after the 2010 Christmas Eve bombings and three other suicide bombings aimed at churches between 2011 and 2012 orchestrated by the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, the conflict has largely adopted a sectarian nature. However, the report stated that the religious nature of the conflict is only a smokescreen to cover the ingrained political and economic causes of the crises.
The report advocated for a change of thought from political elites if there is to be a lasting solution to the incessant conflicts in the state.
It suggested a constitutional amendment to remove all ambiguity in the definition of an indigene and to clearly state the rights accrued to a citizen by residency.
It is of the opinion that impunity fuels the conflict. It advised that perpetrators of the conflict should be brought to book as a deterrent to others while asking government to implement the recommendations of judicial commissions of inquiry.
“Constitutional change is an important step to defuse indigene-settler rivalries that continue to undermine security. It must be accompanied by immediate steps to identify and prosecute perpetrators of violence, in Jos and other parts of the country.
“Elites at local, state and federal level must also consistently implement policies aimed at reducing the dangerous link between ethnic belonging and access to resources, power and security if inter-communal violence is to end,” the report stated.