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Boundary disputes: Osinbajo faults politicians for playing ethnic, religious games



Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has faulted some politicians whom he said “play ethnic or religious games” to exacerbate otherwise straightforward issues resulting in violence and death.

This is as he charged the National Boundaries Commission to step up its vital role to play in managing geographic boundaries and preventing border conflicts.

Osinbajo, who doubles as Chairman of the NBC, spoke on Monday at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja, during a meeting with State Deputy Governors from the federation and management of the NBC over misunderstandings that often deteriorate into boundary disputes.

The VP said it has become expedient to convene the meeting to enable all stakeholders in boundary disputes to understand the Act establishing the NBC and their roles to ensure proper boundary management.

The NBC was established under CAP 238 of 1990 and is responsible for managing internal boundaries among states and external borders between Nigeria and other countries. It is also responsible for preventing the inflow of contraband and illegal materials into the country.

According to the Vice President, “We cannot stress this enough. Land is an emotive issue. And it accounts for many cases of the mindless violence and fatalities that result from border disputes and clashes. For many of our people, it is the very essence of their identity —the whole question of who owns what and who should have access to a particular piece of land. Sometimes it is tied to ancestry and ancient rivalries.

“But most of these combatants do not understand that many of these boundary lines are mainly for administrative convenience. And there should not be disputes about them, and even if there are, it should not lead to violence or the dislocation of people.

“Very often, we observe where politicians play ethnic or religious games which exacerbates otherwise straightforward issues and may result in violence and death. I believe that we are a responsible leadership that can sit at the table with other leaders and agree to give and take, and make concessions.”

The Vice President explained that the meeting became necessary to settle disputes and minimise interstate rancour and instability by interacting directly with the responsible state functionaries and getting a better sense of how they think their border disputes could be more efficiently and successfully tackled.

“I fully agree that such an interaction is necessary after all the users of the commission’s services are best suited to give helpful feedback. Such interaction will be an opportunity to jointly review thecommission’s work so far and to chart a course to the peaceful management of our interstate boundaries.

“So, the handling of border disputes also requires a good knowledge of the issues, and in my view, sincerity of purpose and sensitivity. And this can only be effectively done at the highest levels of governance.

“Which is why the National Boundary Commission Establishment Act of 2006 provides organs at the three levels of government. But in particular, it establishes state boundary committees that are headed by deputy governors in every one of the states. And, of course, the permanent secretaries in the FCT. While the VP chairs the NBC, which is the apex body for resolving border disputes.”

The Vice President said that bold, fair-minded, trustworthy, courageous and patriotic leadership is required to ensure that border disputes are settled without politicisation.

He charged the zonal commissioners of the NBC on their mandate saying, “I believe that in this challenging but crucial enterprise, the border commission has a vital role to play. Its role is sensitive. It’s not just an expert body. But it is also expected to be an honest broker. This is why we have the honourable members of the commission who are from all six geopolitical zones.

“The commission is a public resource whose credibility in dispute resolution is fundamental, we all have a duty to support the commission but also to keep it honest and on its toes all the time because the role of the commission is central to everything we do in border dispute resolution.”

After the closed-door session, Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, revealed that the NBC has been lagging in its duties to demarcate interstate boundaries properly. He said the commission had been charged to take seriously following deliberations with stakeholders.

He said, “After the deliberations, the NBC accepted that there had been issues, and they also accepted that they have not been doing a lot of work. They have also been going through some difficulties, funding and the rest, but at the end of the day, the commission chairman said that they are being funded. For some of us, we were taken aback.

“We agreed that they must step up and do the needful, especially in demarcating boundaries that have not been resolved, and they should carry all the states along in doing this. Also, states should cooperate to ensure that we sensitise communities that are involved in these disputes.”

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