The incessant border clashes among states in Nigeria are due to the lack of political will by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to find a lasting solution by delineating the disputed boundaries in the 20 affected states of the federation.
Reacting to the January edition of the State of Peace report by the Foundation for Peace Professionals (Peacepro) on Nigeria’s recurring border-related crisis, earlier published by Prime Business Africa, stakeholders said the solution to lasting peace was for NBC to delineate the boundaries.
In an interview with Prime Business Africa, the Deputy Chief of Staff in the office of the Abia state Deputy Governor, Sir Don Ubani, said that following several meetings between the affected communities/states with the NBC, what was left was for the Commission to play its constitutional role and delineate the disputed boundaries.
“The solution is simply to delineate the boundaries. For the past six years, the boundary dispute between Abia and Anambra state has been settled, except for delineation. As we speak the NBC has not done the needful. We want the Commission to hasten up and do the delineation so that people can live in peace. If they do the delineation it will reduce the conflict and tension among the communities”, Ubani said.
Further commenting, Ubani noted that the NBC has the constitutional responsibility to look into boundary disputes. “Abia has brought these issues before the Commission. We don’t expect them to be perfect, however, we expect that where there’s a dispute, the Commission should look at the claims dispassionately”, he said.
Ubani narrated the progress made to end border clashes in the South East and the numerous meetings between the NBC and affected communities in the region. “NBC has visited Abia on two different occasions. We have also gone to Abuja to meet with them. They invited Abia and Cross River to Abuja. We met in Abuja. Before then Abia had hosted the Commission and Akwa Ibom at Umuahia. There was a time they came to Enugu and all the South East states were involved.”
Also speaking with Prime Business Africa, a Security and Public Affairs analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of the Global Sentinel, an online magazine with a special focus on security and defence, Senator Iroegbu narrated the cause of the clashes. According to him, “In the case of Imo and Rivers, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Rivers, Bayelsa, the issues keep on changing because of the politics of oil and gas. So resource politics is an issue. This is also seen in the unresolved land disputes between Enugu, Kogi and Anambra because of the newfound oil.”
He tied some of the conflicts on the issue of cultural ties to ancestral lands. According to him, “this makes some of the cases protracted. And in a situation, some communities are arbitrarily carved and divided between two states as we have seen in the case of Ebonyi and Benue, Ebonyi and Cross River, and Abia and Akwa Ibom, where some Igbo communities and lands were carved into these states.”
Lastly, Iroegbu said, “Nigeria still has the unresolved issue of indigenous versus settlers dichotomy in various communities like Umuleri vs Aguleri, Ife vs Modakeke, Ijaws vs Itsekiri, Berom vs Hausa-Fulani.”
The solutions according to Iroegbu were in short and long terms. First, he said where there’s a conflict, there should be an “immediate deployment of security forces to maintain peace and restore normalcy in a non-partisan and unbiased way.”
For the long-term approach, Iroegbu asked the NBC to “take a more historical approach beyond the postcolonial times with historical archives, etc to really establish boundaries. Also, where necessary the NBC should ensure that communities divided by state or local government creations are brought together and if need be conduct a plebiscite. Lastly, there must be sustained dialogue by engaging key stakeholders for a more holistic and amicable solution.”