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By Bilkisu Aminu, Abuja

CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organization established in January 1998 with the mission of promoting public safety, security, and accessible justice through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programmes, and publications, in partnership with government, civil society, and the private sector has launched an Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) Project in Nigeria with a focus in sixteen (16) communities in four states of the Federation- Kaduna, Plateau, Zamfara, and Taraba on Tuesday at the Reiz Hotel in Abuja.

The EWER project is supported by the United States Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in partnership with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The program seeks to end the cycle of violent conflict in Northern Nigeria through the empowerment of community members, including women trained to serve as peacebuilders in early detection and early response to conflict, and through fostering their full participation as citizens in a more equitable economy and more tolerant religious and cultural landscape. It will be implemented over a two-year period.

Retrospectively, the CLEEN Foundation which has Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, New York is a recipient of several national awards since its establishment in 1998. In June 2021 the Foundation was awarded the grant technically known as the Village Monitoring System project. CLEEN is collaborating with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Toronto by the United States Department of State.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, the Acting Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Mrs. Ruth Olofin stated that the purpose of the National Project Launch is to formally present and launch the project to the project stakeholders at the federal/national level. “The launch will also detail the project goals, objectives, activities, and expected outcomes. The goal of the VMS-EWER is to contribute to the reduction of civilian attacks in sixteen communities in Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, and Zamfara states.
The project is designed to contribute to the mitigation and to bring to an end the frequent conflicts, disappearances, and mass violence that is persistent in Northern Nigeria. These incidences are being driven by the effects of climate change; ethnic, religious, and cultural tensions; weak response by security agencies. Collectively, in a bid to protect themselves, communities have resorted to self-help; self-protection, and a progress involvement of women through the empowerment of community members, including women, to serve as peace-builders. They will be trained in early detection and early response to conflicts.
The specific objectives of the project are to Strengthen understanding of regional conflicts and mitigation opportunities through stakeholder assessment and community engagement. To strengthen and expand linkages in sixteen (16) communities between early warning alerts of incidents and on-the-ground responders through communications and networking activities and to Build the capacity of thirty-two (32) early responders to respond to conflict incidents and mitigate violence in sixteen (16) Northern Nigerian communities over two years.

Speaking further, she explained that the project is designed to respond to the need for improved civilian protection from the incessant attacks on various communities in the target states in Nigeria.
“This will be through the proactive deployment of new technology to aid early warning and capacitate the community members to utilize the early warning alerts and carry out early response to forestall the attack on the communities”.

Earlier, Mrs. Ruth Olofin in her welcome remark noted that the current spate of insecurity in Nigeria is devastating and unfortunately has kept increasing with little or no sign of abating. “From the South to the far North, Nigeria is faced with several insecurities ravaging the entire country. The myriad of security threats in the country affects the potential for not just economic development but also human development. One of the perennial security challenges in Nigeria is the issue of violent conflict especially in the northern part of the country. It is important to reiterate that violent conflict is often engineered by weak/absent governance, historical animosities, exclusionary politics, contested legitimacy, resource scarcity/competition, external factors, globalized conflicts, and extremist ideologies (Gilpin, 2016)”.

According to her, “It must be mentioned that violent conflict in Nigeria has led to internal displacement, economic stagnation, and most, unfortunately, loss of lives and properties in all the affected states. This challenge and others like insurgency, ethnoreligious conflict, kidnapping, etc., have labeled Nigeria as one of the most unsafe and conflict-prone countries in the West Africa region.
We have seen governments at different levels come up with several strategies and policies intended to address the multiple layers of insecurity in the country but unfortunately, all these strategies seem not to work. These North-western and North-central regions of the country have recently seen an exponential increase in the rate of violent conflicts with different underpinnings. For instance, the Executive Governor of Kaduna state was reported to have urged the citizens of the state not to allow religion to instigate violent conflict in the state (Adewole, 2021).
Reports of violent conflict permeate the entire northern region and call for the immediate attention of the government.

“This has raised several queries on human security in the country. The United Nations described human security “as an approach that helps in identifying and addressing cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood, and dignity of their people. It calls for “people-centered, comprehensive, context-specific and prevention-oriented responses that strengthen the protection and empowerment of all people.”

She continued, “as part of the mandate of CLEEN Foundation, promoting public safety and security, this project is designed to mitigate violent conflicts in already identified local government areas in the 4 focal states of this project. CLEEN Foundation is committed to providing technical support to security agencies as a form of collaboration to ensure that the mitigation of violent conflicts is achieved. The unique thing about this intervention is the use of technology which will help to generate and collate credible information from members of the communities and amplify this information to relevant security agencies for appropriate actions. Similarly, the intervention is designed to empower women in these communities as an integral part of conflict mitigation and peacebuilding. We are convinced that a successful implementation of this project will help to contribute to the mitigation of violent conflicts in the focal states.
We, therefore, solicit for the cooperation of everyone and more importantly, security agencies in these focal states. As a tradition for CLEEN Foundation, working with security agencies is crucial to the successful implementation and execution of this project. We also ask for the cooperation of members of the communities to ensure we build a structure strong enough to mitigate conflict violence in the focal states”, she added.

Mrs. Ruth stressed that the expected outcomes from the national launch include Stakeholders buy-in for the project, Commitment for cooperation and collaboration secured from USAID, ECOWARN Directorate of ECOWAS Commission, CAN, FORWAN, Religious & Traditional Leaders, CBOs, and other stakeholders; An informed project learning process by stakeholders; Guidance and ideas harvested for better project implementation and results.

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