The dangerous propensity of conflict in the middle belt region of Nigeria, especially in Plateau State, has left many displaced with the attendant loss of lives and properties. The over two decades of violent clashes are majorly on bloody feuds along identity lines such as religion, tribe, indigenes settlers and farmer-herder. In all, Plateau state is a theatre of wanton group conflict and destruction. Irrespective of peace intervention efforts, fatal clashes are recurrent. In the last six months, about 132 people have died in 18 incidents, according to the Nextier SPD Violent Conflict Database.
Many issues promote crisis in Plateau state. Top on the list of conflict triggers is climate change that has placed enormous pressure on natural resources, coupled with an increase in population and a continual influx of semi-nomadic cattle herders to the region. The displacement due to insecurity has also impacted agriculture. As a result, agricultural value chains are disrupted with diminished self-sufficiency capacities for the rural population. Another factor arises from the government’s policies, legislation, and practices to protect communal resources. The inability to enforce the land tenure system, confusion around modern and traditional governance mechanisms, and insufficient response by the state contributes to the conflict. These largely unmanaged issues set the tempo of imminent violent socio-economic struggles between cattle herders and sedentary farmers.
Unresolved old conflicts precipitate new ones. Due to inadequate and ineffective measures, old conflicts are anything but resolved. Hence, the propensity of resurgence is likely as the achieved peace is not sustainable. Additionally, the frequency of conflict has widened gaps of mutual mistrusts among feuding parties. This has impacted mechanisms for mediating disputes. Also, compliance with agreements on the use of resources and economic collaborations have been affected by the spate of violence.
Peace in Plateau state means improving peacebuilding and early warning measures. Numerous peacebuilding efforts, including peace clubs and Plateau State Peacebuilding Agency (PPBA), exist, but they have not stopped the escalation of new violence. Therefore, there is a need to investigate the peacebuilding designs and implementation framework in Plateau state to understand the current realities, draw lessons and challenges that have impeded efforts to secure durable peace. Information from the study will re-position the efforts of government, development partners, community-based groups and civil society organisations in addressing the root causes of the conflicts. The research will also include efforts to match expectations to the realities on the ground.
Government must pursue peace through proactive measures. Issues around poor governance perceived unfair allocation of public goods and weak social justice system fuel social crisis. Governments in deeply divided societies must ensure fairness and equity in administration. Additionally, government responses to local conflicts must be tactful to not exacerbate conflict. This also involves security efforts to manage social conflicts and their triggers. The purposes of policing will be lost if its members assert their affiliations over the business of tackling local crimes and disputes. Hasisi (2008) argues that there are tense relations between the minorities and the police, especially in deeply divided societies. Such tense relations can be followed by unbalanced and unfair policing. Therefore, all mediating stakeholders in a potential conflict environment must be objective to avoid fanning the embers of hostilities. Peace for Plateau is achievable if government, especially security agencies, efficiently secure lives and livelihoods, and there is a robust study to understand why durable peace has eluded the state.