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IDPs: Nigeria Sitting on a Keg of Gun Powder -Minister, Experts warn

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•As Search, UN Women, others calls for greater role for women in PCVE

As Nigerian government, military and other stakeholders intensify efforts to de-radicalize and re-integrate repentant violent extremists as a strategy to address insecurity, experts have raised concerns over the surge in the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) lacking any form of economic empowerment or formal education saying the trend has high potential to result in vicious cycle of violent extremism.

These experts are particularly worried that people are still being recruited even beyond Nigeria’s northeast and uneducated displaced children who roam the streets are easy target to be lured with peanuts and recruited by perpetrators of armed conflicts and violent extremism.

The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, made these known while speaking at a one-day National Forum on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) at the weekend organised by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) and the UN Women with the support of Government of Japan in Abuja.

Tallen warned that “Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder on the issue of IDPs vis a vis insecurity and all hands must be on deck to address it”.

“Insurgency has penetrated deep into the roots of Nigerian society. It therefore, becomes worrisome that more persons have been recruited as agents of mass destruction and the population of young mothers who have up to eight children are displaced and have no source of income”, she said.

The minister who was represented by her Special Assistant, Ms. Jummai Idonije, stressed that economic empowerment is key in CVE explaining that when a mother is empowered, they look after their children which will stem the tide of recruiting them as terrorists.

The Executive Secretary, National Humana Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu, in his keynote address, noted that violent extremism is the most widespread human rights abuse and a fundamental barrier to socio-economic and political empowerment of women and girls who are often susceptible to abuse and exploitation.

The executive secretary, who was represented by Mr. Benedict Agu, said crimes against women have been increasing over the years but very few cases are reported. He said despite the National Policy Framework and Action Plan on CVE, much is still left to be done.

He however stressed that until women are liberated form violent extremism, all efforts at peace, security and sustainable development will be undermined.

Also speaking, Senator Iroegbu, a security analyst and CEO, Global Sentinel, said women have a strategic role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders, partly because they can play an emotive role in reaching out to extremist offenders to change their violent behaviour. 

Iroegbu who is the Editor, PRNigeria, added that Women’s roles in homes and communities can pick up early signs of radicalization in their children.

The analyst also pointed out that strategic communication is key and women and the mass media have important roles to play noting that women dominate the social media space which the extremist also employ to lure followers. 

To this en, Iroegbu urged women to use social media to disseminate counter extremism messages, but regretted that most women are only interested in fashion and entertainment.

He also said the media has a role to play in portraying the roles women have to play as Peacebuilders and mediators in conflict and amplifying their voices rather than just portraying them as victims.

Meanwhile on the issue of reintegrating repentant extremist, Zuwaira Gambo, Commissioner, Women Affairs and Social Development, Borno State, noted that it may be a difficult process because they going back to mingle with the people they have caused to grief. 

The Commissioner therefore said religious leaders have an important are to play in preaching forgiveness so that they can be accepted.

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