Fifty-six ethnic communities in six local government areas of Plateau State on Thursday signed a declaration for peace and harmonious relationship, signalling an end to many years of ethno-religious crises and tensions.
The peace agreement follows series of mediated peace talks among the hitherto warring communities.
The communities are from Langtang North, Langtang South, Mikang, Qua’an Pan, Shendam and Wase local government areas, all in the southern part of Plateau.
They resolved to put aside their differences and live in peace irrespective of tribe or religion.
The signing of the agreement was at an elaborate ceremony attended by the United States’ and German ambassadors to Nigeria, among other dignitaries.
The peace initiative, driven by an international nongovernmental organisation, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, is a sequel to similar accord reached among communities in Jos and its environs three years ago.
In his address, the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, described peace building as a cardinal objective of his administration, describing peace as the only condition for meaningful development in the state.
According to him, investigation has shown that some crises were deliberately instigated by persons in authority to create an avenue to steal public funds in the name of security votes.
He said previous administrations in the state spent billions of naira on security votes; money he said could have been better utilised if peace prevailed in the state,
“We noticed that billions have been siphoned. When you ask they will say security vote. It’s a way of siphoning money in billions.
“When I came into government I told you that if you give me peace I will give you good governance. Now that we live in peace it is the money that I am using to pay all the salary and pension. If you give me more peace I will do more,” he said.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of the occasion, Nuhu Ribadu, recalled how difficult it was to start the mediated dialogue among warring communities in the aftermath of the Jos crisis, adding, however, that with resilience of the mediators and other stakeholders, the initial difficulties were overcome.
He said with the signing of the peace accord among the people of southern Plateau, the initiative to bring back peace in the state was now complete following the success recorded in Jos.
He lauded the various community leaders who demonstrated commitment and desire for peace in the dialogue process, leading to all parties reaching a consensus.
The lead mediator of the Centre of Humanitarian Dialogue, Alice Nderuti, said the signing of the peace declaration followed series of meetings among selected stakeholders from each affected community.
She said rather than being taken as the end of the process, the signing of the peace accord only signalled the beginning of the real process towards a lasting peace in the area.
Ms. Nderuti therefore called for support and cooperation of all stakeholders in implementing various components of the peace declaration.