North-South Inter Meeting in Owerri

The North-South Committee of the Human Rights (HR) component of the TOLERANCE Project is a platform for the members to engage and discuss issues of concerns towards achieving national cohesion and peaceful coexistence.  The Inter Meeting aims to deepen understanding and further cement relationship between the Committee members and the first leg of the Inter Meeting brought Bauchi Committee members to Imo State to experience the State's peculiar diversity and also relate firsthand with indigenous Christians and Muslims in the State. The two days meeting commenced on August 17 and ended onAugust 18, 2016 in Owerri, Imo state.

Bauchi State had 12 males and 8 females in attendance while Imo state had 13 males and 7 females making a total of 40 participants.

Key participants included the Special Assistant to the Governor of Imo State on Conflict Resolution and Special Advisor on North South Matters amongst others.

Highlights of the meeting:

·         Causes of ethno – religious violence was discussed to include:  identity issues and exposure deficiency syndrome

·         Akokwa community was identified as the most violent community in Imo state

·         A visit to the Chief of Igbos of Owerri and Chief of Hausa in Hausa community within Owerri

·         The Imo state Clergy and Traditional Leaders showed support to IMC’s initiative and donated 70 thousand Naira cash to support   the North South Exchange Program.  

·         The North-South Dialogue platform formed to sustain the bridging of relationships between Northern and Southern Nigeria.

Lessons Learned

1.      Akokwa community was identified as one of the most violent communities in Imo state.

2.      Imo and Bauchi state participants indicated that their negative perception about each other and their fear to live in a place other than where they are from has greatly reduced especially now that they are brought together under one platform to promote  peace building.

Suggestions on Enhancing the Committee’s activities

1        Akokwa Community needs to be visited by the new committee members of the North-South dialogue platform to engage in intervention so as to reduce the violence in the community.

2        Participants want the Interfaith work to be taken to the grass root level, suggesting that there should be IMC representatives in all the local government areas of the two target states for HR (Imo and Bauchi).

3        A participant shared that a film known as ‘Tabawa’ was in circulation in the past. The film portrays the importance of killing for one to enter paradise, adding that the film needs to be traced to ascertain if it still exists and brought down or the public should be warned against watching it.

4        Participants suggested as a matter of urgency, the need for IMC’s interfaith work on  peacebuilding to be well promoted through the use of various media like drama, flyers , TV/Radio broadcasts.

5        Participants further requested for periodic seminars on interfaith relations for youth from North and South Nigeria.

6        Bauchi participants demanded a regular visit to communities in Owerri to have  first-hand experience on  how Muslims and Christians relate.

Cross Section of Participants from Imo/Bauchi, IMC in a group photograph after the meeting

Cross Section of Participants from Imo/Bauchi, IMC in a group photograph after the meeting