By Edidiong Obot
It was an intensive and mind-engaging 3-day training for Religious and Women Leaders on Conflict Mitigation in Akwa Ibom State by USAID Nigeria at the state transparency accountability and effectiveness (state2state) activity organized at Havillah Hotel, Uyo, the state capital.
In his opening remarks, the State Team Lead, Borve Paago-Imabel informed that the purpose of the “State Accountability, Transparency and Effectiveness” (“State2State”) activity is to increase the accountability, transparency and effectiveness in targeted states and Local Government (LGAs) in Nigeria which activity is implemented in Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Gombe and Sokoto States.
He furthered that the State2State specifically seeks to increase efficiency of Sub National Government Operations: strengthening governance systems (with a focus on public financial management (PFM) and procurement, as well as monitoring and evaluation).
“Related to the delivery of services in the key sectors of basic education, primary health care and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). It also seeks to improve Sub National Government responsiveness to Citizen/CSO Engagement: increasing government ability to respond to citizen needs and priority. For effectiveness, State2State activity embarked on an evidence based assessment process with key state institutions in the development of baseline standards. This included the Public Finance Management Assessment which supports our PFM intervention in the state.”
The Team Lead maintained that State2State conducted the Conflict Assessment Framework in Akwa Ibom State to empirically determine the nature of conflicts in the state in June 2021. The study, he said helped to determine the approach to conflict mitigation activities planned for the state.
“The conflict Mitigation Training for Religious and women leaders in Akwa Ibom State is therefore one in a series of confict mitigation and management trainings provided to critical stakeholders in the state. Prior to now, our conflict mitigation training has been delivered to Youths, political parties, CSOs and citizens groups, Akwa Ibom State Council of Traditional Rulers, the media and also government institutions. State2State is USAID’s flagship governance activity in Nigeria running from 2022-2025,” he noted. Adding that the activity is designed to create synergy and multi stakeholders’ response to addressing conflicts in the States where State2State works across Ngeria.
According to the Team Lead, he informed that the State signed-in to the State2State Activity in March 2021. “To show commitment to the reform activities of the USAID funded activity, the State Governor HE Udom Emmanuel approved the provision of office space and the composition of the State Transformation Committee headed by the Commissioner for Finance Dr. Linus Nkan which was inaugurated by the Secretary to the State Government Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem On June 21 2021.”
He listed some key achievements recorded since inception in 2021 to include: Conduct of the state Public Finance Management Assessment which allowed state institutions to undergo a process of self-assessment, scoring and rating; Development of State Budget Calendar; Standard Operations Manual for MDAs; Develophent of the Medium -Term Expenditure Framework for the 2022-2024 Fiscal Years and Full migration of the 2022 state budget to the National Charts of Accounts template with support from the Nigeria Governor’s Forum.
Other achievements he said are; “Development of Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Services IGR Expansion Strategy; The state communication strategy documents; Development of the state Budget manual; Completed the MTEF development process for 2022-2025 with key officials of the state ministries of finance and economic development; Capacity building to Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on Legislative Oversight functions; Debt Sustainability Analysis and profiling as well as Capacity building for state procurement bureau and CSOs.”
Mr Borve Paago-Imabel posited that State2State has concluded plans for the development of the state Medium Sector Strategy as wells as Mionitoring and Evaluation Framework with the Ministry of Economic Development.
In hiss words, “This workshop offers us a unique opportunity and platform for exchange of ideas to build more resilient and strong society as well as state institutions competing to meet best standards to foster the development of our state. Therefore, Interfacing with and building the skills of key religious leaders in conflict mitigation is a strategy to support social cohesion, stability and security as given the peculiar calling and mandate of faith based organizations.
“The inclusion of women serves to reinforce the strategic role of mothers in the society. It is accepted that if you train a woman, you are training a nation. It is our hope to build a resource pool for conflict mitigation in the state towards the emergence of state conflict management framework in Akwa Ibom State.”
He explained that their major focus is on the implementation of actions developed at the end of the process to reengineer the oversight functions and deepen engagement with various state instituions for the benefit of the State.
Paago-Imabel thanked the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel and the State Executive Council for the continued support to the activity in the State as well as the Secretary to State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem for participating in the activity to open the workshop and to the Donor and Multilateral Relations Department for their partnership.
“I specially thank the State Transformation Committee under the chairmanship of the state Cominissioner of Finance Dr. Linus Nkan whose pivotal support has resulted in the many successes of the project in Akwa Ibom State. As we mark a year of the STC today, we pray for more achievements together,” he submitted.
The Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem has enjoined religious and women leaders to be guarded in their utterances because people are listening to them otherwise they can set the country ablaze by the way they speak.
Declaring open the 3-days training, the state scribe noted that what they say on the pulpit as religious or women leaders matter a lot. “Our words matter, as opinion moulders and influencers. The women who are the custodians and by nature very patient and detailed have lots of people they come across everyday from home, school, church, farm etc for them to counsel or meet as a group. It is a serious responsibility, in Akwa Ibom State, politics, church and all, let peace lead. Cross check, verify and do not just swallow whatever anybody tells you. When you verify, you will be so shocked that you were told only 10percent of what happened.”
Describing the state as the most peaceful state in Nigeria, Ekuwem informed that peace is the greatest bone as it settles all. He noted that peace is an important and necessary instrument both in the Christian and Muslim religions. He listed some beatitudes in the scriptures as blessing to Christian life hinting that Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.
Ekuwem described women as partners, noting that one conflict usually identified is domestic violence and charged men to respect women. “A sound man does not look at a woman with disrespect or disdain, do not do that. A complete man does not disrespect womanhood or think he holds monopoly of knowledge.”
He reminded women that they can make it as God has blessed all equally no matter the gender. “There is no area of subject the women have not excelled. Counsel your sons and daughters to dialogue and exchange ideas as two good heads are better than one which is the first port of call. We can all excel. Peace is what is used to address conflict.
On his part, the state CAN chairman thanked God for the grace as well as USAID for the training to discuss and interact as regards conflict mitigation. He also thanked the state government for accommodating them to encourage their Programmes and activities. “Conflict is as old as man and not a new thing to Nigeria or Akwa Ibom State, “If your brother acts wrongly towards you, go and point out his fault to him when only you and he are there. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15-18. He charged all to embrace peace.
Whereas Mrs Idongesit Okoko thanked the governor for being proactive even before the electioneering period by putting in place the Maintain Peace Movement to avoid conflict and prayed God for the technical know-how to ensure peace wherever they are while supporting one another.
[6/22, 23:39] Edidiong Obot: The Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem (middle) flanked by the Team Lead, Borve Paago-Imabel on the (left) and Mrs Idongesit Okoko, President, National Council For Women Societies, Akwa Ibom State Chapter (right) and other participants in a group photograph after the event, recently.