Voiceless Victims

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Historically, in Nigeria, victims-focused reconciliation and empowerment efforts are not the nation’s strongest forte. Strong examples are the alleged 20 pounds payment to Nigerians on the Biafran side after the end of the civil war in the 1970s and the lack of efforts at proper reconciliation and healing processes. There is also the ongoing insurgency in the Northeast. While government is striving to return and resettle the displaced, the rehabilitation of ‘low-risk ex-Boko Haram fighters’ has been a disappointment. Much recently, efforts to help victims of police brutality have not been encouraging with the reported freezing of bank accounts belonging to some ENDSARS protesters. The follow-up panels of inquiry into police misconduct and brutality have revealed horrific experiences of victims and their families.

Purposeful efforts to support victims of structural violence and other insecurities is instrumental for peacebuilding and stabilisation programmes for the country. The citizens must feel government’s genuine commitment to the issues they face. Local concerns, for instance, is essential for the counter-insurgency mission in the terror-troubled Northeast zone. It is also a critical step if the nation is to become better, especially after the nationwide protest against police brutality. Many scholars have argued that the lack of proper reconciliation and healing efforts may also contribute to modern-day pro-Biafra secessionist agitations.

Government can begin with involving victims in policies and programmes around issues that affect or may have affected them. For instance, the disarmament, demobilisation, deradicalisation and reintegration programmes for ex-insurgents could factor in the interests of Boko Haram victims and residents in targeted locations of resettlements. According to Erez (2006) in a UN module in ‘Effects of terrorism: A trauma and victimological perspective’ suggests that a society of unattended trauma victims could pose financial costs–victims take up prevention measures by closing down their businesses. This, in turn, leads to increased poverty and unemployment.

Government must give more attention to victims of violent conflict in Nigeria. Lack of proper healing processes can be breeding grounds for grievance-driven violence and conflict, especially in group versus group violence. To address these risks, there is a need to factor in participatory dialogues as part of reconciliatory and healing programmes for victims. Government must demonstrate its commitment to support victims of conflict and violence through policies and programmes that cushions their realities. Revenge-based violence is real and must be addressed through purposeful criminal justice and psychosocial interventions.