Mercy Corps and the burden of building confidence, resilience against violent extremism

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*trains parents, youth influencers in Kogi.

To say that the outbreak of insurgency, banditry, Armed Robbery, Cultism, Rape and other violent crimes just happened, is to say the least being far from the truth.

The early warning signals have always been with us without being a attended to at our peril.

It is truism that no concerted efforts, either by individuals, corporate organisations, and the government at all levels have taken place to mitigate it’s explosion.

Although , belatedly, the government took some measures at dousing the drivers of violent extremism rocking the existence of the country, it was not consistent and holistic enough to stem the tides, with its devastation across the country.

It is believed that no where in the country and nobody is spared from being attacked by these hoodlums.

From the homes , domestic violence has become the norm, and to the larger society frustration, and hopelessness have enveloped the country.

From the North East”s insurgency of Bokoharam, North West’s Banditry; North Central and South West herders and farmers crises even as the East’s separatism agenda is up to tear the nation apart.

The federal government and its twins in the state and Local Government areas looked helpless as their strategies in using high level force to stem the tide has not yielded desired results, as thousands of innocent lives are being lost, kidnapped for ransom with dire consequences on the social economic fabrics of the nation.

It is in this light of national frustration and despair that a non Governmental Organisation, Mercy Corps through Community Initiative to Promote Peace (CIPP) programme decided to confront the challenge head-on with a three day workshop tagged : parenting for peace ToT for Parents and Youth influencers was held in Lokoja, Kogi state capital between 25 -27 May, 2021.
The workshop which drew participants, from the parents, Religious leaders, Youth influencers, Opinion leaders from four local Government areas of the state, namely Dekina, Lokoja, Yagba west and Igalamela LGAs, were drilled on parenting for peace from Christian and Muslim perspectives, understanding violent extremism and radicalisation; Diversity and identity in preventing violent extremism PVE and Extremism and religion in Nigeria was an eye opener to the participants.

They were grilled on how to relate with their children and that of the neighborhood and how to identify early behavioural changes that build up to violent extremism in children and young adults and how to handle them.

Speaking on the essence and importance of the workshop, the programme officer and women peacebuilding coordinator, with Mercy Corps, Mariagoretti Aya, noted that the programme is a technique in teaching parents how to understand and identify early stages of radicalisation. For instance, we stay at home with our children, some of us does not take notice of the changes in the behaviour of their children.


She disclosed that the programme is to educate people and to build the capacity of parents so that they can understand when their children are exhibiting changes in behaviours.
According to her , They have conducted training in Kaduna, Katsina , Kano and now they are in Kogi state and the training has impacted positively on the trainees who have started showing skills in noticing changes in their children as well as children in the communities.
In her words ” It is not just one person that does the job, it is a community work, we have to put our hands together to build better children.
” The participants have been enthusiastic with the programme, parents are happy as they have realised that when their children are going astray, they know what to do.
The programme is building their capacity and they now know , once they see a change in their children, a single disobedience can be a sign of a child belonging to a radical group.
” Parents now understand and in this training, we don’t only have parents , we also have the youths that they too see and understand from their friends that when I see my friend behave this way , I understand that there is trouble and I’m able to identify on time and report to the necessary person and this is the aim of the programme” she explained.

Asked how to used the training to reduce incidence of the drivers of radicalisation, she has this to say” We will continue to partner with the government to make sure that we reach as many as possible . It is everybody’s business to understand that our states and country is undergoing a lot of issues on violent extremism, but, what can we do to build capacity of the people we come across and for our project, we have different states that we work and we keep expanding. The CIPP came out of a project that ended and we decided that we should continue to keep engaging people and ECPN was just for three states, Benue , Nassrawa and plateau.
The CIPP is in six states , so we are progressing. The people cannot do it alone , government either cannot do it alone. The work needs all the citizenry and this is how development project works.
She however, advise parents to continue to look after their children, because, sometimes, it is lack of parental care that makes children to join extreme behaviours. ” We need to take care of our children, at least to provide basic necessities of lives. We cannot leave them to their peer groups and most often we need to monitor the kind of friends they keep. We need to be friendly with them, so that they can willingly speak to us. It is when they speak to us that we can understand them, invariably we need to be their intimate friends.
Speaking from the religious perspective, the chief Imam of Federal University Lokoja, Danjuma Khalid, a facilitator, said the programme is intended to reach communities, because, it is from the communities that it scaled down to the family, which is the basic unit of socialisation. In essence , the project is to build their reselience against violent extremism.
It is also hoped that the training will equip youth influencers, parents , teachers with skills and capacity of their reselience against violent extremism.

While delving on the perspective of the religion, he said every religion preaches peace , hence, religion is not the problem as the people want us to believe, but the problem is the people. Whenever there is violence, argument and intolerance , it is the manipulation of the people.
All religions including African Traditional Religions preaches peace. The problem is essentially the people and that is why all hands must be on deck to acquire needed skills to mitigate violent extremism.

Another participant, Alhaji Yahaya Suleiman, Fulani herder gave pass mark for the workshop, that he was made to know that there is equality of human race before God.

He stressed that before the training, many participants held the notion that Fulani herders are killers , but we were made to work for peace and to shun all forms of vices, which is possible within communities and across country.
He commended mercy corps for the workshop which has exposed them to know how to mobilise the communities for peace. He promised that when he returned home he is going to engage the youth who are carriers of violent extremism to embrace peace.
He advised the stakeholders to identify the segment of the population that are vulnerable to violence and engage them with skills that will make them better citizens rather than concentrating on the older generation who after the training will retire to their homes without implementing the experience gathered.
According to him” The real drivers of violence who are the youths are neglected in the social economic affairs of this country. Let them keep promoting the conversation with the youths . The government and all stakeholders should design programmes that will raise the consciousness of the youth for Nation’s building.” He advises.


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