The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has again decried the devastating impacts of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, saying that it has brought untold physical, emotional and psychological losses on the victims and their families.
It restated that promoting Reconciliation, Reintegration and Transitional Justice will go a long way to bring back a lasting peace in the North East.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu (SAN) who lamented over the situation in Maiduguri, Borno state at the inaugural Traditional and Religious Leaders Forum on Transitional Justice and Reconciliation in North East Nigeria urged leaders in the area to assist the Commission to facilitate the effective implementation of the project.
The Chief Custodian of Human Rights in Nigeria cited a recent UNDP report which estimated that there have been about 350,000 direct and indirect deaths linked to the insurgency with over 2 million displaced people in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
Speaking further at the event event organised by the NHRC in partnership with state governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe and sponsored by UNDP and EU, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria stated that the project is committed to Reconciliation, Reintegration and Transitional Justice in the three aforesaid states.
In the same vein, the NHRC Boss, acknowledged the partnership and co-convening roles of the Ministry of Local Government and Emirates Affairs and the Office of His Royal Highness, the Shehu of Borno which have made this event possible.
In addition, the Executive Secretary extolled the efforts and sacrifices of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the commitments of the Governments and citizens of the north-eastern states towards reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration of affected communities.
Stressing the role of traditional and religious leaders in the peace building process, he recalled that "in many of our communities across Nigeria, traditional and religious leaders are the centerpiece of our civilization, facilitating and shaping education and socialization from cradle to grave.
"In North-Eastern Nigeria, traditional and religious institutions whose roles in advancing social and economic development dating more than five centuries have been recognized", he added.
He therefore opined that working with the governments of the three project states in the seven pilot project communities and indeed the region, "we can begin an annual convening of this Forum to continue to advocate for the roles of traditional and religious institutions in peace building and social justice".
Ojukwu used the opportunity to welcome the keynote speaker, Professor Umara Ibrahim Gudumbali, of the Department of Political Science, University of Maiduguri. According to him, “Prof. Gudumbali is a distinguished scholar in the field which has brought us together today".
He thanked the governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe for their partnership in the Transitional Justice Project, and for the leadership and resilience they have all shown in tacking the security and development challenges affecting the region.
"You have a partner in the National Human Rights Commission, and we pledge our mandate and resources to continuously work with you in addressing these challenges", the Executive assured.
In his opening statement while declaring the workshop open, His Royal Highness Alhaji (Dr.) Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi CFR, the Shehu of Borno assured the Commission and other partners that he is in total support of the project aimed at building peace and reconciliation and achieving transitional justice in the North East.
The Royal Highness who was represented by his Secretary, Alhaji Zanna Umar Ali, specifically thanked the NHRC Boss, the project partners and the sponsors, UNDP and EU for supporting the peace and reconciliation process in the North East.
In his keynote speech, Professor Umara Ibrahim Gudumbali gave a detailed historical and cultural analysis of the Transitional Justice System, saying that it is not new to Nigeria, particularly in the Borno Empire of Northern Nigeria.
The erudite Professor narrated the timely interventions of the Borno Empire in settling disputes and conflicts decades back. He said such conflicts extended to other states outside Borno Empire such as Bauchi, Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Benue, Kogi and even to other countries, including Egypt, Ethiopian, and Cameron etc.
He recalled that the first Regional Task Force in the continent was established by the Borno Empire and Egypt; he noted that the Task Force assisted in countering the activities of fighters along the transatlantic trade.
The University Don therefore charged the traditional rulers and religious leaders to borrow a leaf from the ancient mechanisms of settling disputes in attempting to address the current crises occasioned by insurgency in the North East.
In his goodwill message, the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice, Borno state, Mr. Abdullahi Hussaini Izge Esq lauded the non-kinetic efforts of the federal government targeted at achieving peace and transitional justice in the North East.
According to Izge, transitional justice system is not new to Northern Nigeria because it has been there before the coming of the Colonialists, saying that the modern application can only brush over what we had before.
The Reconciliation and Social Cohesion Officer with the UNDP who also the represented the Head of North East Sub Office Mr. David Maina, said the importance of the project is to help the communities affected by insurgency transition themselves to a sustainable economy. He noted that this may not be achieved in one day considering the offences perpetrated, but the work done by the stakeholders in the next few days will ensure progress made towards achieving the goals.
More goodwill messages came from Representatives of Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Borno state, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo, Special Adviser and Coordinator on Sustainable Development, Partnereship and Humanitarian Supports, Government of Borno state, Representatives of Goverment, Ministries and Agencies.