31 January 2013

Nigeria: CJN Blames Political Class for Conflict

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Mukthar, Wednesday said the winner takes all attitude of politicians was a major cause of conflict in the country.

Speaking at a peace and security summit organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mukthar said the diverse nature of the Nigerian society formed part of the security challenges in the country.

She argued that for Nigeria to have sustainable peace, leaders must change their attitude.

She said: "Whether we agree with this opinion or not the fact remains that the plurality of the Nigerian society forms a major part of the security challenges the country is currently facing."

According to her, while every national conflict has its unique elements common to all, there are four key challenges to the building of sustainable peace and democracy in divided societies.

"Unless these four challenges are efficiently addressed, peace and democracy will be at best ephemeral.

"First, a way must be found to transform pervasive zero-sum, winner-takes-all mentality that is both the cause and the product of conflict. In Nigeria, this factor has contributed in no small measure in fueling the impending insecurity situation in the country," she added.

The CJN noted that the relationships and trust among key leaders that have been fractured by the conflict must be restored so that there would be confidence that agreements will be honoured.

She said: "This is no easy task, but it is essential to the mutual confidence and for enduring democratic political discourse.

"A true new consensus must be forged among key leaders on the rules of the game, i.e on how power will be shared and organised, and how decisions will be made. For such a consensus to have a broad legitimacy, it must be developed in a process that is wholly owned by the leaders themselves and that is inclusive of all key elements of the society.

"In the absence of such an inclusive consensus sustainable peace and democracy are unattainable," she declared.

"Lastly, in conflicts especially violent conflicts, communication between the parties degenerates. Leaders tend to espouse positions and make demands based solely on their own perception of their narrowly conceived self-interest. There is little capacity to really hear the other or to plough through the rhetoric.

"In the end, sustainable peace and democracy require effective skills of communications and negotiations. Remember, a negotiated agreement is, more likely to hold rather than people feeling that situations are imposed on them."

In a keynote address, former Director of the State Security Service (SSS) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), A.K Horsfall, called on the judiciary to set up special courts to try cases of violent terrorism, economic terrorism and corruption to rapidly deal with persons under trial in the said matters which, he said was capable of destroying the country.

He stated that the judicial arm had a major duty in the fight against terrorism in the country.

He also charged the executive arm of government to ensure proper coordination between security agencies in the country, noting that despite the huge budgetary allocation for security vote there was a weak political methodology and the absence of effective coordination among political operators and the various forces dealing with the problem.

According to him, the judicial arm in particular had a major duty to perform in this matter, the dispensation of justice is on the shoulders of the judiciary and the least one would expect from the judiciary in the matter of violent terrorism, economic "terrorism" and corruption is to emulate the action taken by its Indian counterpart, a commonwealth country like Nigeria, to set up special courts to deal with corruption and terrorism cases.

He said: "It would be recalled that following the gang rape of a 23-year-old lady by six Indians, the judiciary in that country has designated special courts to rapidly dispense justice in that outrageous criminal matter.

"In my opinion so should the Nigerian judiciary do by immediately designating special courts to rapidly deal with persons under trial in these matters."

Horsfall, however, called for adequate security for judges and other judicial officials engaged in the dispensation of justice pointing out that"there is a new challenge facing the judiciary. The safety of judges and other judicial officers embarking on these dangerous and risky assignments.

"These functionaries must be adequately protected by the state. The legislative and executive arms of government must take immediate steps to ensure the safeguard and protection of judges by making fresh laws and providing adequate safeguard and security for judicial officers. They must do this urgently to confirm their commitment to the cause if justice,"he added.

Attorney-General of the Federation Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN), in his speech, said that the Federal Government was working on a genuine reconciliation and tackling poverty head on to curb insecurity in the country.

In his words: "There is doubt that challenges to internal security can erode our democracy, we shall continue sustainable peace among all the sections of the country. Government is therefore tackling the issue if poverty at different fronts.

"Government is encouraging re-orientation programmes and is always open to constructive ideas on how to confront security challenges."

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