THE USAID – OTI/AFRYDEF/CAJ PEACE PROJECT IN IMO STATE IN 2000
In recent times, the Nigerian society has witnessed a lot of tensions and agitations to serious communal unrests in which so many lives and properties worth over billons of naira have been lost carelessly.
Some of the remote causes of these unrest have been serious political demands for a “true federalism”, sovereign national conference or confederation as a result of the perceived marginalization of some sections of the country. In the oil production areas, the major causes of these communal unrest is the political control of the enormous oil resource and the inability of the government to provide, improve and sustain amenities necessary for a civilized and decent existence in the region. These unwelcoming situation coupled with the transition to civil rule prompted the establishment of the arm of the United States Agency for International Development known as the Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI) in Nigeria in 1995.
Conflict Management and Good Governance being topmost priorities of USAID/OTI in Nigeria, different conflict mitigation training programs were organized for youths of these restive communities, especially the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta region. To effectively translate its objectives of relaxed atmosphere for a democratic government and economic development in Nigeria, the USAID/OTI entered into partnerships with recognized NGO(s) and civil society organizations in these target regions.
On 4th October 2000, a coalition of two Imo State-based NGOs: African Youth Development Foundation (AFRYDEF) and Committee for Advancement of Justice (CAJ) was formed by USAID/OTI to adequately extend this peace crusade to the major oil producing communities of Imo State. This coalition is known and addressed as the MOVEMENT TO SAVE OHAJI/EGBEMA/OGUTA YOUTHS.
These two organizations, AFRYDEF and CAJ, in partnership with the USAID-Office of Transition Initiatives organized a three day Conflict Mitigation and Good Governance workshop to ensure the economic well-being of youths of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, the major oil producing communities of the state.
The Workshop held at the Executive Gardens Hotel, Owerri, Imo state from December 18 – 20, 2000 provided the 50 participants drawn from the various communities a rare opportunity for group discussions and intensive interactive exercises on the ways forward for peaceful and problem – solving approaches to conflict situations, especially in the oil producing communities of Imo state and the Niger Delta region.
At the end of the workshop, the following resolutions were solemnly taken by the participants;
1.) That the MOVEMENT TO SAVE OHAJI/EGBEMA/OGUTA YOUTHS, a coalition of the African Youth Development Foundation (AFRYDEF) and Committee for Advancement of Justice (CAJ) brought together by USAID/OTI shall hereafter be empowered to mediate in the resolutions of all conflicts emanating from oil exploration activities in the two LGAs be considered.
2.) That for the sustenance of the impact created in this workshop, a CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND ADVOCACY NETWORK comprising all the participants shall be set up to address conflict situations in these areas hereafter.
3.) That the government at all levels and at all times should be more transparent and accessible to the people under their constituencies.
4.) That the government at all levels should embark on more meaningful programs and projects which will benefit the youths socio-economically and politically such as:
- the establishment of skill training and youth resources centers:
- the provision of qualitative educational services at the rural areas, especially in the oil producing communities.
- the incorporation of youth leaders into all the policy making and decision taking bodies, especially at the community levels.
5.) On the issues of Adapalm (Nig.) Ltd; Obitti Rubber Estate; Ohaji Forest Reserve; College of Agriculture, Umuagwo; Oguta Lake Motels and Oguta Golf Course, all in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas of Imo State raised by the participants, it was resolved as follows:
- that adequate compensations should be made by the state government to the host communities,
- that qualified sons and daughters of the host communities of these establishments should be appointed into top management positions of these establishments.
6.) That the Imo State House of Assembly, Owerri should as a matter of urgency enact comprehensive laws empowering and integrating youth leaders in the effective governance of their communities and equally assign specific roles to the Traditional Rulers who have been taking laws into their hands these days.
7.) On matters arising on the 13% oil derivation formula and disbursements, it was resolved as follows:
- that the State Government should formally present to the general public, especially the people of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas the formula for the disbursements of the fund from the Federal Government meant for the development of oil producing communities or face legal actions; and
- that a Committee comprising youth leaders, community leaders, women group leaders, traditional rulers, religious leaders and government officials should be set up by the State Government immediately to manage the 13% oil derivation fund allocated to these oil producing communities monthly.
8.) That such important issues as Community Development, Education, Good Governance, Civic Education and Gender Equality should be incorporated into the primary and secondary school curricular if sound foundation on national rebirth is to be laid effectively.
9.) Lastly, the Government, corporate bodies and international agencies like USAID-Office of Transition Initiatives should promote, encourage and support the activities of African Youth Development Foundation (AFRYDEF), Committee for Advancement of Justice (CAJ) and other similar NGOs to cost-effectively translate their numerous people- and community- oriented objectives in Imo state, Nigeria into realities.
UCHE WISDOM DURUEKE, Esq REMY CHIDI CHUKWUNYERE
Project Director (MSOEOY) Project Coordinator (MSOEOY) and National President, CAJ and Executive Director, AFRYDEF