Eight civil society organisations (CSOs) under the auspices of Gender Advocacy for Justice Initiative (GAJI) have urged the citizens of Benue State to cooperate with the Military operation of the Cat Race Exercise.
The organisations comprising mid-level professionals, members of the academia, practitioners in peace and conflict resolution and retired public servants while making the appeal in a communique at the end of its meeting in Abuja on Friday also urged that the Army exhibit a high sense of neutrality, responsibility and respect the rules of engagement.
The communique jointly signed by Cliff Gai and Tersoo Agera chairman and secretary of GAJI said the meeting was to identify the immediate, medium and long term strategies in response to the recent developments in Benue State and Middle Belt of the country.
“The meeting reviewed the security situation in Benue State and the level and quality of response from various tiers and agencies of government. The group also reviewed the publication of Search for Common Ground titled “The Implications of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law on Farmer-Herder Relations in the Middle Belt of Nigeria.
“The meeting observed that the long years of poor governance and structural imbalances are responsible for the insecurity situation in Benue and other parts of the country. The group observes with dismay the lackluster response of the Federal Government of Nigeria towards the security situation in Benue State and many parts of the country and condemns it in the strongest terms,” it said.
It however commended the media for the critical, responsive and sustained roles in creating awareness on the security situation in Benue State.
While saying that the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law is a product of a legitimate process and reaffirms commitment and support to its full implementation, it said the publication of Search for Common Ground, not only took sides in the Benue situation but also yielding their platforms for inciting and misleading publications capable of escalating the situation.
It said, “The group welcomes the deployment of the Army under exercise Cat Race and is hopeful that this will facilitate the immediate return of internally displaced persons to their ancestral homes.”
It regretted that among other challenges, the citizens are not only displaced but also going to be disenfranchised from exercising their political rights of voter registration and urged security agencies and INEC to ensure that displaced people have opportunity to register and also vote in the upcoming elections.
While acknowledging the decision of the Federal Government to reconstruct affected communities, they urged that the process should be comprehensive, inclusive and gender – responsive, and also urged the United Nations (UN) and other international agencies to support the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation in Benue State.