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NGO (CEPEJ) Signs MoU with IPCR Towards Effective Peacebuilding, Conflict Resolution in Nigeria...

...Mulade Donates Accommodation to IPCR as Temporary Office in South South Nigeria

History was made in the Niger Delta Region on 18th June, 2021 in Warri Delta State, when a notable NGO, Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution, IPCR, an Agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, to continue the advocacy for peaceful coexistence among the ethnic groups of the South South Region and beyond.

Besides the signing of the MoU, the National Coordinator of CEPEJ, Chief (Comrade) Mulade Sheriff, on behalf of the NGO, donated an office accommodation within the premises of CEPEJ at its Head Office at Ugolo, in Okpe LGA of Delta State, to the IPCR as the take-off point of its South South Zonal Office, free of charge.

Earlier in his address, the CEPEJ CEO, Chief Sheriff Mulade said the MoU was to formalize and deepen the partnership between CEPEJ and the IPCR. Chief Mulade, who is the Ibe-Seremowei of ancient Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State, said the delay in signing the MoU was due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that the pandemic has taught everyone that trust, partnership and solidarity are essential for confronting threats to peace and security. He described the agreement as a significant milestone in the ongoing collaboration between CEPEJ and the IPCR.

According to him, strong peace building NGOs like CEPEJ are more important now than ever for bringing communities together, while trying to meet other Sustainable Development Goals. He said the MoU was not just a piece of paper but an agreement that commits the two bodies to a close partnership in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, as well as the development of society.

The Peace Ambassador noted that for many years now, CEPEJ and IPCR had directed their joint focus and expertise towards fostering local involvement in peace building conversations and activities, adding that now is the right moment for the two bodies to strengthen their cooperation and enhance their common focus, as well as work policy framework. 

While stating that Nigeria now faces very complex challenges with grave implications for peace and security, Comrade Mulade Sheriff stressed the need to address the issue of an ageing population, the prospect of irreversible climate change and increased migration flows, which he described as complex and interwoven, and can only be tackled through collaboration at the individual, local, regional, national and global levels, and said they required muti-sector approaches and new ways of working and policy coherence built through engaging the Federal Government, other civil societies, the private sector, households and individuals.

He said the NGO, CEPEJ, represents the people at the grassroots and so understands best, their needs and interests. He emphasized that CEPEJ's partnerships with critical stakeholders make the grassroots a unique place to foster progress and development. 

With this Memorandum of Understanding, CEPEJ is building a joint action from the local to global level, taking necessary steps to implement the 2030 Peace Agenda and its SDGs. CEPEJ’s aim of signing this MoU with the IPCR is to open doors for other stakeholders in the Niger Delta region to key into the partnership and exploit the opportunity to develop the various communities. 

In terms of peace, Chief Mulade said Nigeria was scored very low in the 2016 Global Peace Index and was rated same with countries such as Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, and other war-torn countries. He lamented that the federating units of Nigeria were yet to truly recognise one another as constituents of one nation due to religious, economic, political and social factors, amongst others. 

He described Nigeria's environment as prone to conflict, so much so that even government interventions and international supports tend to prove inadequate in addressing the problem. He therefore, stressed the need for NGOs or civil society organisations like CEPEJ, supported by indigenous philanthropists, to do the much they could to ensure sustainable peace and stability in the country, by attending to one community at a time. In his words, "We must translate this MoU from a commitment on paper to a reality in the lives of the people we serve."

The CEPEJ Coordinator thanked the Director General of IPCR, Prof. Bakut Tswah Bakut and his team, and others for making the agreement possible. He said with goodwill, focus and a strong commitment to work together, he was hopeful that steps would be taken to achieve the common goal of a peaceful, conflict-free, and developed society for all.

For his part, the Director General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) Prof. Tswah Bakut noted that the Federal Agency was established in Feb. 2000 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the primary mandate as a research centre, and a think-tank Agency to strengthen Nigeria’s capacity to promote peace, as well as prevent and manage conflicts.

Prof. Bakut emphasized IPCR's commitment to providing Africa with policy options based on result-oriented research, while building capacities and intervening in conflict spots to enable the continent emerge as a secure, peaceful and democratic place where the principles of the Rule of Law and human dignity are respected. He noted that while the IPCR is mandated to develop and advise African Governments on peace and conflict resolution, the Institute does not publicize its feats, adding however, that the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme was discussed, developed and designed by the IPCR. 

In an interview shortly after the signing of the MoU and handing over of the free office accommodation to IPCR by the CEPEJ National Coordinator, Chief Sheriff Mulade, Prof. Bakut stated that the Institute had commenced a nationwide awareness campaign to curtail the ongoing wave of insurgency, kidnapping, banditry, killings, herders-farmers clashes and the destruction of lives and property, including Government facilities across the country.

In a separate interview with newsmen, Prof. Bakut described CEPEJ as a special NGO that needed Federal Govt's partnership, stressing that the new office space donated by CEPEJ to the IPCR, would cover the entire South South zone of Nigeria. He identified the similarities between CEPEJ and IPCR in terms of their Pan African mandates. He noted that the signing of the MoU would usher in a new dawn in the Niger Delta Region, Nigeria and Africa as a whole, adding that CEPEJ has over time proven itself to be worthy of Federal Government's partnership.

Also in an interview, the Chairman, CEPEJ's Board of Trustees, Dr. (Chief) GodwIn Orhadahwe spoke on the activities of the NGO till date, and advised practicing journalists in Nigeria to report conflicts/crises responsibly, in line with the dictates of the development and social responsibility theories of Mass Communication, so as not to further heat up the already tensed Nigerian polity.

The MoU signing ceremony was attended by representatives of CEPEJ, IPCR, the Police, and the Bar, amongst others.

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