Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says bold, fair-minded, courageous and patriotic leadership is required to settle border disputes without politicisation and heightened tensions.
Osinbajo made this submission in his opening address at a meeting with deputy governors and the National Boundary Commission (NBC) regarding boundary issues on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The vice president said that the meeting was conceived from discussions he had at various times with several of deputy governors.
He said that deputy governors were concerned that NBC’s potential to settle disputes and minimise inter-state rancour and instability would be greatly assisted if the commission interacted directly with responsible state functionaries.
“I fully agreed that such an interaction was necessary and important after all, the users of the services of the commission are best suited to give useful feedbacks.
“And in any event, such an interaction would be an opportunity to jointly review the work of the commission so far and to chart a pathway to peaceful management of our inter-state boundaries; and we cannot stress this enough: the attempt to try and resolve boundary issues as peacefully as possible.
“Land is an emotive issue, and this is so, not just in our country, but everywhere; it accounts in many cases for the mindless violence and sometimes fatalities that result from border disputes and clashes.
“ For many of our people, it is the very essence of their identity; in some cases, it is tied to ancestry and ancient unresolved rivalries.
“But lost on many combatants is the fact that many of these boundary lines are in many cases merely for administrative convenience; the sorts of disputes we have, even if there are, shouldn’t result in violence and dislocation of so many of our people.’’
According to him, handling of border disputes requires a good knowledge of the issues, and sincerity of purpose and sensitivity.
He said it could only be effectively done at the highest levels of governance which was why the NBC (Establishment Act) 2006, provided organs at all three levels of government to establish State Boundary Committees.
Osinbajo said the committees were under the chairmanship of the deputy governors across the states of the federation and the permanent secretary at the FCT.
“While the vice president chairs the internal National Border Commission, (the apex body for resolving border disputes), I believe that bold, fair-minded, just, courageous and patriotic leadership is required to settle border disputes without politicisation and heightened tensions.
“ Very often you find that where politicians play ethnic or religious games, it merely exacerbates otherwise straightforward issues, and may frequently result in violence and death.
“I believe it is responsible leadership that can sit at the table with other leaders and agree to give and take, make concessions that are often difficult and be able to communicate the issues to their constituents and populace.
“ It is that kind of courageous leadership the Law had in mind when those of us who are put into positions of responsibility with respect to border disputes are placed in those positions.
“In that difficult but crucial enterprise, the commission has a vital and sensitive role to play as an expert body, and as an honest and trustworthy broker.
“It is supposed to be balanced, which is why we have the members of the commission who are from all the six geo-political zones and they have introduced themselves already.’’
He said the commission was a public resource, which credibility in dispute resolution was fundamental; therefore, all had a duty to support the commission.
Osinbajo said the commission had to be kept honest and on its toes all the time as its role was central to everything done in border dispute resolution.
“So I hope this interaction will help the process of achieving some of these objectives.
“This meeting is not meant to review specific border disputes or issues otherwise we would not leave here till the end of the month.
“We have provided just for your information, a list of the current status of border disputes and the list of all border disputes,’’ he said.
Osinbajo assured the participants at the meeting that the board of the commission would give urgent and full attention to all recommendations that were made at the important meeting.