BENUE, NIGERIA – FEBRUARY 22, 2022 – With the commitment to end decades of intercommunal violence over water and land in North Central Nigeria, more than 20 clans from the Agatu community today signed a peace agreement on the sharing of resources that also covers free movement in the area and the safe return of thousands of displaced people.
Brokered by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), the Natural Resource Peace Agreement in the Agatu Local Government Area is part of a major conflict resolution process started by HD in Benue state in 2017. The process involves 10 major ethnic groups to encourage dialogue and peaceful co-existence among farmers, herders and communities with diverse views and positions.
“The Agatu are an amazing community,” said Ahmed Yassin, HD’s Lead Facilitator. “From our initial conflict assessment and throughout the mediation process, they have made it abundantly clear to my team that they are committed to the process and the ultimate big prize – which is peace.”
The goal is to replicate the Agatu pilot – HD’s first resource-sharing agreement in Nigeria – in neighbouring areas and states.
The peace accord – which recognises the need to involve women, youth and people with disabilities in the process – follows a Statement of Affirmation by the 22 clans in November 2021 that included their commitment to HD’s dialogue process, an immediate halt to attacks and the creation of a committee to oversee implementation.
“Today is the happiest day in my life,” Godwin Ngbede Onah, Chief of the Ada Agatu clan, said at the signing ceremony. “This crisis began in the 1970s when I was young. Today I am the chief and I am happy that peace returns in my time.”
“HD has taken on some conflicts which have proved impervious and intractable to other peacemakers. We are glad for the success we are beginning to see,” said Professor Magdalene Dura, speaking on behalf of Dr Samuel Loraer Ortom, Executive Governor of Benue state. “As we sign today, leaving behind misgivings and grievances accumulated over the last 50 years, go back and do more for peace.”
Since the early 1970s, the area has suffered violence over natural resources, especially the ownership, access and management of water sources, farmland and fishponds. The disputes have resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of people displaced, widespread criminal activity and interruption of economic, social and education programmes.
“Huge credit to the 22 Agatu clans for their commitment to a dialogue process that lets us help them reach a peaceful solution to a long, damaging conflict,” said Babatunde Afolabi, HD’s Regional Director for Anglophone and Lusophone Africa.
“We are optimistic that this achievement will encourage other communities to resolve their disputes over resources and pursue a peaceful future.”
HD’s mediation and peacemaking work in various areas of Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy and most populous country – includes three major intercommunal agreements in 2015 and 2016 and a landmark social media peace accord signed in July 2021 by the Bache, Fulani and Irigwe ethnic groups in the Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau state.
With more than 50 projects and 300 staff across Africa, the Middle East, Eurasia, Asia and Latin America, HD is the leading international private diplomacy organisation working to prevent and resolve armed conflicts through dialogue and mediation.