NOA, CSOs advocate counter-narratives to end insurgency
By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garba Abari, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders, have advocated intensified efforts on counter narratives to end violent extremism in Nigeria.
They made the call at the inauguration of “Time to tell the Truth Campaign” by Truth Alliance, a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and critical stakeholders in Northeast Nigeria and in Niger Republic, on Wednesday in Abuja.
Abari said the issue of violent extremism had taken a toll on Nigeria’s landscape in so many forms like social, economic, and political dislocations which he said had become of great concern not only to Nigeria but across the entire West African region.
He said that violent extremism activated by the Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) had also become part of a global terrorist franchise.
According to him, to actually beginning to tell the truth in addition to what has been done by the government, civil society and donor agencies are to have a deeper interrogation of the processes leading up to what we are seeing today.
Abari said the Borno Model of the state government had in recent time attracted a large turn out of the repentant Boko Haram terrorists in their thousands who had surrendered.
He said the Federal Government had also developed a home grown response to reducing the fighting capacity of Boko Haram under the Operation Safe Corridor as a direct policy response to get them out, deradicalise them.
He said the inauguration was an attempt to interrogate how far the efforts had reduced the fighting ability of those elements that had taken arms against the states.
“We in NOA have a sense that we must actually begin to complement the efforts of what the Neen Foundation and Truth Alliance are doing to get community buy in.
“This is because, it is important that to deradicalise, reintegrate or integrate as the case may be, it must be community driven, because the community is essentially the very first recipient of the devastation of this.
“How do we strike the very delicate balance between the feeling of the victim and that of the perpetrator? Because this is a very hot potato in the hand of Government, the donor agencies and peace building institutions.
“Boko Haram is an ideologically driven rebellion against the state and what we in the National Orientation Agency have just have discovered is counter narrative and this is one thing that neither government nor all was involved in countering violent extremism.
“Dealing with terror groups have succeeded over the years but alternative narrative is one area that we need to emphasise and develop more competencies and the capacity around it,” he said.
The Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Imam Sulaiman-Ibrahim, said that violence, extremists, had perpetrated mass atrocities, internal displacement and refugees.
Sulaiman-Ibrahim, who was represented by his Chief of Staff. Ms Grace Ukpong, said that the commission’s responsibility was to protect and assist victims of violence, especially the IDPs and refugees.
He said that while millions of people had been affected by insurgency, the discourse around the imperceptible, invisible harm that extremism had inflicted on communities, societies and and countries was still underestimated.
According to him, massive displacement of people from the area of origin to other places as a result of incidents of extremism is changing the fabric of our society.
“We have adopted the whole of society and all of government approach because once we see incidences of displacement.
“The general public plays a key role in identifying the terrorist disinformation on the internet.
“There is need to conduct advocacy and sensitisation programs by organizing and hosting town hall meetings that cover material that help demystify and dispel narratives of the violent extremists that says that violence is necessary and justified.
“Additionally, such outreach efforts may also help to increase the bystander reporting; able to identify is to say that we should be aware and be vigilant to ensure that we identify suspicious behaviors online.
“There should be familiarity with their tactics, their techniques and their procedures in violent extremist messaging that can help public safety and private sectors, stakeholders to identify this suspicious behaviour on social media,” he said.
The Commissioner of Home Affairs, Information and Culture, Borno, Babakura Abba-Jato, said the key point of the bono model was the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Deradicalisation (3Ds) and Rehabilitation, Reorientation and Resettlement (3Rs).
Abba-Jato said the terrorists had developed confidence in the current government of Borno owing to the leadership focus of Prof. Babagana Zulum.
According to him, Zulum appealed to them that whoever is ready to lay down his arms and then wants to join the community and live a normal life, no harm will touch him or her.
“Secondly, the military also now adopted the kinetic and non-kinetic approach to the fight against the insurgents.
“So this model has worked successfully and now we have about 85,000 of them,” he said.
Executive Director, Neem Foundation, Dr Fatima Akilu, said the ‘time to tell the truth’ campaign was a call to action for all citizens of Nigeria to speak up against violent extremism.
Akilu said the foundation believed that it is the time to tell the truth about the activities of the terrorist organisations and the devastating effects of their activities on communities.
She said there was need to also acknowledge the role that every citizen had to play in addressing the root causes of terrorism.
“It has been really months of debate, arguments, discussions to see what is the best way to counter these terrorists and narratives.
“Through this campaign, we are trying to empower the society by deconstructing the misinformation and deceit spread by violent extremist groups and to further help government efforts in both reintegration and rehabilitation.
“Time to tell the truth is a campaign with the main objective of degrading the ability of violent extremists organisations in their recruitment of members, supporters, sympathisers, particularly among target audiences in northern Nigeria whereby an extremist groups such as al Qaeda and ISWAP and Boko Haram are most active.
“So this project actually aims to diminish target audience support for local violent extremist groups by discrediting their discrediting their activities and exploiting the divisions within them.
“Additionally, it aims to improve target audiences ability to think critically. And gain resilience to violent extremists, propaganda and misinformation,” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was targeted at exposing and diminishing Violent Extremist Organisations (VEOs) recruiting power through raising awareness and part of concerted efforts towards galvanising voices toward exposing VEO’s narratives.
It is also aimed at increasing awareness and resilience in violent extremist target audiences by exposing the negative consequences, and disinformation propagated by VVEOs (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Isaac Aregbesola