The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, in collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), and the Embassy of Switzerland in Nigeria, convened a three-day Workshop aimed at building the capacity of relevant Nigerian government officials on how to deal with non-state armed groups (NSAG-s), at the Chelsea Hotel, Abuja from 24th-26th October 2017. The Workshop participants were drawn from Nigeria’s security agencies, relevant Ministries and Parastatals, such as the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Navy, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Ministries of Defence, Justice and Interior, as well as the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT). Attended by specialists with expertise on countries such as Afghanistan, Indonesia, Somalia, the Lake Chad area, as well as Nigeria’s Niger Delta area, the three-day workshop afforded participants the opportunity to:
• reflect on the emergence and evolution of NSAG-s in Nigeria (root causes, enabling conditions, pathways to violence), and the range of non-military tools deployed by the state in response;
• review applicable international humanitarian law, as it relates to NSAG-s in Nigeria; review case studies of other countries (Indonesia, Afghanistan and Somalia) that have engaged armed insurgent groups and extract lessons from those experiences;
• explore best practices related to mediation and negotiation with armed insurgent groups and the reintegration of non-state armed groups as an incentive for dialogue facilitation;
• reflect on some of the critical considerations that inform engagement with NSAG-S, particularly in terms of timing, propitious conditions for launching such efforts, means to test and sustain windows of opportunity, as well as possible ways to calibrate and coordinate the different facets of government response (military, intelligence, dialogue, etc.), and;
• reflect on the regional dimensions of insurgencies in Nigeria, especially as they relate to the search for comprehensive solutions.
In their opening statements at the workshop, the conveners, H.E Eric Mayoraz, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Nigeria, Commodore Y.E.M Musa, Coordinator Counterterrorism Centre in the Office of the National Security Adviser, Nigeria, as well as Ms. Meredith Preston-McGhie, Africa Regional Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), all expressed the timeliness of the workshop and stressed the need to consider the use of dialogue as a useful tool for engaging NSAG-s.
In the course of the workshop, participants benefitted from the experiences shared on the various case studies by the lead discussants/resource persons, with the expectation that the shared experiences would impact upon the participants’ perception of – as senior representatives of various government MDAs – and approaches to dealing with NSAG-s. The exchange of ideas between the resource persons and the participants stimulated thoughts and helped them to generate new policy ideas for government’s efforts in dealing with NSAG-s in Nigeria.
At the end of the three-day workshop, a number of far-reaching conclusions necessary to ensure better engagement of NSAG-s by relevant security agencies were arrived at. Some of them include the following:
• the critical importance of policymakers’ possession of political will in order to effectively address the various threats to peace and stability in Nigeria;
• the need to create an enabling environment for political dialogue between state actors and NSAG-s;
• the importance of commitment and consensus-building by state actors in dealing with NSAG-s;
• the need to enhance the capacity of security actors in understanding and utilizing various dialogue tools;
• in seeking to utilize dialogue as a tool of engagement, the need to attempt to determine the end goals and objectives from the onset;
• the need to bridge the divide between the academic community and practice, when it comes to peace and security matters, as well as;
• the need to have a clear definition of what type of actors to engage in dialogue.
In his closing remarks at the end of the three-day workshop, Commodore YEM Musa, on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, expressed sincere gratitude to the Government of Switzerland, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), and staff of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), as well as the experts and participants, from Nigeria MDAs and Strategic institutions for the thought-provoking and engaging workshop.