The Nigeria Youth for Peace Forum 2020 which held on the 9th December 2020 in Abuja was convened by Building Blocks for Peace Foundation in collaboration with the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP)- Nigeria, Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa (CSDEA) and Sanctuary of Hope Foundation to bring together young people and relevant stakeholders working on conflict prevention and peacebuilding across communities in Nigeria in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 (UNSCR 2250) on Youth, Peace and Security. The event which was the third edition of the forum was themed ‘
Young People’s Protection: An Inevitable Strategy for a Peaceful and Prosperous Society’. The event featured keynote addresses by top peacebuilding experts, panel discussions on different areas of youth protection, public presentation of the documentary/book on the roles and contributions of youth to peace and security in Nigeria and the presentation of awards and micro-grants to outstanding youth peacebuilders in Nigeria in 2020.
Mr Rafiu Adeniran Lawal, the Executive Director of Building Blocks for Peace Foundation (BBFORPEACE), who welcomed the 70 participants to the forum noted that the event was an important organised to discuss youth protection in the light of the #EndSARS protests and the harsh effect of COVID-19 on young people. He emphasised that one of the ways of achieving sustainable peace is to prioritise the protection of young people.
Dr Willie Eselebor, the Board Chairman of Building Blocks for Peace Foundation, reiterated the need for intergenerational dialogue and mentorship for young people from the older generation particularly in developing their peacebuilding capacities.
Other guest speakers at the forum included Mr Sher Nawaz, the Country Director of Search for Common Ground Nigeria who was represented by the Director for Finance, Mr Onnu Udalor. Onnu reiterated Search’s commitment to championing the Global Youth, Peace and Security agenda and pledged to continue to build youth capacity and collaborate with youth-led organisations in its programming especially in Nigeria. Mrs Patience Ikpe-Obaulo, the Head of Programs at WANEP Nigeria, praised the efforts of BBFORPEACE in driving the domestication of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 through awareness programs and also the creation of the Nigeria Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security (NCYPS). She stressed the need for youth to continue to collaborate and leverage their abilities and make a sustainable impact.
Lt Colonel, M.S. Daroda, a Commanding Officer at 7 Guard Battalion of the Nigerian Army who also attended the event maintained that the interest of the army and the Nigerian security forces is to protect young Nigerians and also work with them for a secure country. He decried the actions of bad eggs in the security forces that had portrayed them in a bad light as the enemies of youth and urged civil-military dialogues to strengthen their collaboration.
Dr Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, affirmed that youth were central to the prosperity and security of the West African region. She lamented that West Africa has the lowest level of social protection at just 10% and called for more community-based initiatives to build peace in local communities. Dr Garba Abari, the Director-General of National Orientation Agency who was represented at the forum, emphasised the importance of youth in mitigating conflict at the grassroots level and called for more peer sensitization and reorientation among the Nigerian youth.
Dr Benson Olugbuo, the Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, made his keynote speech on the theme titled: Young People’s Protection: An Inevitable Strategy for a Peaceful and Prosperous Society. He argued that the Youth, Peace and Security agenda initiated by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 (UNSCR 2250) increased the peacebuilding initiatives of young people which make up 63% of the Nigerian population. According to him, the #EndSARS protest was a justifiable demonstration of young people’s need for protection which ironically ended with the government failing to protect them as multiple casualties ensued as a result of government confrontation. Dr Benson noted that the #EndSARS youth protest was a peaceful means of expressing youth displeasure with the status quo. He charged the government to provide jobs and ensure the security of lives and property and urged the youth to come together to participate actively in politics through innovative means including creating their party.
Mr Theophilus Ekpon, the Executive Director of Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa (CSDEA) gave the second keynote speech titled ‘An Overview of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda: From Amman to Nigeria’. He traced the creation of the YPS agenda to the Amman Declaration adopted at the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security in 2015 to its implementation in Nigeria including the development of the National Action Plan on Youth, Peace and Security. He urged the government to utilise early warning systems to work with youth to build peace proactively rather than respond slowly after lives have been lost to violent conflict. He advocated for the provisions of employment opportunities by the government and creation of a political party by the youths among themselves to take power from the older generation.
A Panel discussion was held by representatives of top stakeholders in the Youth, Peace and Security scene. Mr Rotimi Olawale from Youth Hub Africa discussed the shrinking civic and digital space. He lamented that security forces were perceived by the general public as extortionists and fraudulent personnel. He decried the shrinking space that had become the reality and urged the government to uplift human rights and the rule of law. Mr Ibrahim Farouq from YIAGA Africa discussed the police brutality and violation of human rights of young people as seen in the #EndSARS protest. He noted that police abuse is systematic victimisation of young people and called for police accountability and transparency when dealing with the public. The Representative from the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution emphasised the role of youth in CVE as very important due to peer-to-peer engagement. She tasked the government to equip youth organisations with training and opportunities to counter violent extremism. Mrs Patience Ikpe Obaulo of WANEP considered the intersectionality of the Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security agendas as important to building strong partnerships between women and youth groups in peacebuilding. She particularly highlighted young women peacebuilders as those working at this intersectionality that needs as much support from all stakeholders as possible. Mr Isaac Adeagbo from the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development noted the need to engage youth in the digital economy with several opportunities offered by the ministry such as online programs, grants and training on digital skills, employability and entrepreneurship. He urged young people to take advantage of technology to learn the valuable skills required in the future of work.
The Building Blocks for Peace Foundation publicly presented its flagship publication titled:
Connecting and Amplifying the Voices of Youth Building Peace in Nigeria book which captures the impact of 16 youth-led organisations in peacebuilding. One of the editors of the book, Mr Allwell Akhigbe, Research Director at BBFORPEACE stressed that the book focused on 6 themes which included: youth participation in politics, use of arts, sports and media for creative peacebuilding, gender empowerment, climate change, sustainable livelihoods and formal and informal peace education. Mr Allwell noted that despite little funding, insecure contexts and negative stereotypes of youth as violence perpetrators, young people continue to work for peace across communities in Nigeria and beyond. He, therefore, called for the creation of youth-focused funding opportunities and capacity-building as well as strong partnerships with the government and civil society for more impact. Dr Sintiki from ECOWAS launched the book to rousing applause from the participants.
The 2020 Nigeria Youth for Peace Award was presented to the winners- Mr Michael Afolami of Peace Actors Network in the male category and Miss Oluwatoyin Esther Agaja of Eco Diversified International who won the female category. Both winners received a seed grant of $150 each and Youth, Peace and Security publications.
The closing remarks and vote of thanks were delivered by Miss Mojisola Ogundiran of the United Network for Youth, Peace and Diplomacy (UNYPD) who appreciated all stakeholders for their participation.
Report Written by
Allwell Akhigbe, Ismail Amodu and Yahaya Ismaila
Research Team, Building Blocks for Peace Foundation