Constitution of the Anambra State Truth, Justice and Peace Committee – A Formality or Best Bridge for Stability

Brutality, indiscriminate destruction of lives and property are vices that were attributed to the northern part of Nigeria. However, this narrative is gradually changing. The eastern part of Nigeria particularly, Anambra State, appears to have taken the mantle of violence from the northern region of the country, the spike in agitations and violent attacks give credence to this.

It all started with indiscriminate ticketing, cult rivalries, and cumulated to gruesome, indiscriminate killing of service men, kidnapping, killing of innocent citizens and unprovoked burning of public and private properties.

When these agitations and violent crisis was at its incubation stage in Anambra, some were quick to tag it as retribution hour for murderous SARS/service men. Others argued that the perpetrators of these violent activities did not immediate from the State, and as might either be notorious Fulani bandits who are already accustomed to banditry, sponsored to disrupt peaceful nature of Anambrarians or political thugs of politicians, who are desperate to curse chaos in bid to deliver their political pay-masters. Few attributed these atrocities sky-rocketing violent crisis to IPOB and compulsory Monday sit-at-home order they foisted on the entire Southeastern region, all to press for the release of their detained leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kalu; of whom they believe was abducted, repatriated and wrongfully detained by the central government.

At the initial stage of this Monday sit-at-home, sections of the southeast region and by extension, some Anambrarians heralded this protest, but this support is gradually weaning. Many people of the State, both elites and intellectuals, firmly believe that there is need to seek better approach to press the release of the detained IPOB leader, quell the sky-rocketing violent crisis in the State so as to prevent the State as an established business hub, restore its economy and revive the educational sector from the adverse effect of these violent crisis and Mondays sit-at-home protest. 

 It is no longer news that businesses, banks, schools don’t function on Mondays and all moves made to reverse this trend are yet to yield any meaningful result. Aside the fact the sit-at-home prevents the businesses and schools from operating; the State loses huge revenue as a result coupled with the fact that it scares investors from investing in the State. Of present, people of Anambra State live in constant fear of the unknown and the audacity of the perpetrators of these violent crimes. Just a week and hours after the Anambra State Governor, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo made passionate plea to agitators to surrender their arms and be granted amnesty, the Aguata Local Government was burnt and the successive unprovoked violent attacks are yet to cease.

 One can argue and rightly so, that it was as result of these continued violent activities, agitation that Anambra Governor, Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo, deemed it wise to constitute the Truth, Justice and Peace Committee that comprised 15 elitist members with Prof. Chidi Odinkalu as its chairman. From the committee’s terms of reference, it is clear that their core tasks are to afford the agitators in the State an avenue to air their grievances, to lay down their arms and turn a new leaf.

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Prof. Chidi Odinkalu

Other mandates include to: Identify the remote and immediate causes of the agitations, restiveness, violence and the armed struggle in the South East since 1999; Document victims/circumstances of death, brutality and incarceration and Identify stakeholders and groups who have played critical roles in the agitations and conflicts, their roles, capabilities and demands.

The committee was also tasked to address other issue (s) that may be germane to unraveling the extent of the crisis and charting the roadmap for the future as well as make recommendations for sustainable peace and security in Anambra State and by extension, southeast.

This committee was given 6 months timeframe to among other tasks harmonize immediate causes of the agitations, restiveness, violence and armed struggle in the Southeast since 1999. The committee also wields wide discretion to explore any method it deem necessary to accomplish these tasks.

One thing is sure, and that must be said, that the caliber or personality that makes up the Truth, Peace and Justice Committee, their experiences and age cannot be questioned. Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, the committee’s secretary needs no introduction and same goes to; Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, Canon Dr. Okechukwu C. Obi-Okoye, Dr. Udenta Udenta, Charley Boy, Dr. John Otu, Mr. Ngozi Odumuko, Ms Onyeka Onwenu, Dr. Joe Abah, Mr. Chukwuma Okpalaezeukwu, Mr. Sam Egwuatu and Prof Joseph Ikechebelu.

Some people are skeptical and worried about the elitist composition of the committee, bearing in mind the nature of their mandate and the illiterate state of their subject (agitators). It is common knowledge that most crime perpetrators, agitators dwell in remote areas, creeks and not exotic offices and apartments like most of the committee members and they care less about grammar or glamour. Apart from Mr. Charly Boy who may likely not be versed with creeks in Anambra, people of the state are skeptic if the rest of the committee members would be eager to meet these agitators in their den and if doing so would gain the committee effective result.

Amb. Bianca Ojukwu

Nigeria is one nation that has never been in lack of good policies but is always spineless to implement most of her policies. Bearing this in mind, questions are if that won’t be the fate of this committee’s recommendations as it is the fate of numerous policies made by the Nigerian government. One of such is the recommendations made in the reports of the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission later called The Judicial Commission for the Investigation of Human Rights Violations which lasted from the 14th June 1999 till May, 2002 and the neglect of the Nigerian government to implement it.

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Like the Anambra State Governor, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike sometime, constituted a Truth and Reconciliation Committee which was chaired by Justice Kayode Eso (rtd.). Nevertheless, the entirety of the recommendations was set aside on the ground that fair hearing was not accorded by the Commission to the ex-Governor Peter Odili.

A similar committee tagged ‘Peace, Truth, Reconciliation Committee, was constituted by the Governor of Benue State sometime in 2019 after her general election all to harmonize and assuage aggrieved persons and candidates of the election but the recommendations of the committee did not achieve much.

One thing is sure, that is, Anambranians may take solace in the fact that current Governor of the State, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo is a man of his words. His electoral promise to clear up Okpoko and its fulfillment is a testament to his personality. The Governor will likely implement the recommendations of the Truth, Peace and Justice Committee, if that will restore peace to the State.

Be that as it may and bearing in mind the huge mandate facing this elitist committee within the limited time to harmonize its report, one begins to imagine the miracle the committee will perform to actualize that. However, after my exhaustive interaction with one of the current Commissioner of the Anambra State recently concerning the rationale behind the constitution of the committee, their strength and discretion to co-opt members, it became clear to me that this committee can actually succeed in this hurricane tasks if desired. It is the prayer of most Anambrarians that the committee succeed in its quest and its constitution will not end up being mere formality.

Nigeria is seriously battling insecurity; ranging from kidnapping, unknown gunmen, bandits, herdsmen, the terrorist gang-Bokoharam, and Anambra State is not left out. The State is battling to rescue herself from the grapple of unknown gunmen, bandits, kidnappers, arsonists, thieves, cultists and some miscreants that parade themselves as IPOB agitators. No doubt, not all IPOB agitators are destructive and not all agitators are sincere in their quest.

Anambra State used to be a peaceful State, but not anymore. The continuous unrest in the State is gradually robbing her of sleep. Opinions suggest that there is every tendency the current rate of violent atrocities in the State and by extension, the entire Southeast would likely reduce if IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is released from detention. It is an open secret that most miscreants in the State hide under the quest to enforce sit-at-home order of IPOB to perpetrate all manner of crime, infuse terror and ignorantly scare aware investors and visitors of the State.  With the release of the IPOB leader from detention, most of his agitators will certainly take a break.

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Soludo has taken a giant step towards ensuring that peace is restored in the State and I sincerely applaud this initiative and the constitution of this Truth, Justice and Peace Committee. Be that as it may, my submission remained that Anambra government took more proactive steps to halt these violent activities in the State.

While I appreciate the fact that the Anambra State Truth, Peace and Justice Committee wield the power to co-opt members to assist them, to adopt any lawful approach to achieve their mandate, there is also need for the committee to reach out to core agitators in this on-going violent crises. There is urgent need for the committee to identify those that constitute nuisance in the State so as to deter dissidents.

It is common knowledge that while dealing with security issues as this, it is not every facts, details or information that must be made public and the Truth, Peace and Justice Committee must know this. That notwithstanding, there is need to remind the Anambra State Governor the present security crisis facing Anambra State, the bogus mandates foisted on this constituted committee outweighs it and as such cannot be  tackled alone by the committee. There is need to urgently include some security personnel and few grass-root persons in this committee so as to enable the illiterate agitators to approach it. The governor should as matter of urgency and in conjunction with other Southeast Governors, reach out to key executives of these agitators with the aim of abetting these un-going crises.

The Eastern Governors, as stakeholders and all well meaning personalities of the Southeast extraction should as matter of urgency, deem it a matter of national security to affect the immediate release of the detained IPOB leader to quell the angered and restless nerves in the Southeast region. It is my honest belief that most of the agitations and unrest in the Southeast region are traceable to the continued detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kalu, same applies to the current sit-at-home protest that is gradually turning the Southeast into a grave-yard. To end this agitations and violent unrest, the State and her citizens must unite to curb same before it engulfs everyone. I conclude with this Igbo say, ‘ adighi eji ihe ana agba na nti agba n’anya’!

CHIBUIKE OKAFO

(Legal Practitioner/Poet)

What are your thoughts?

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