Central Nigeria’s Barkin Ladi Local Government Chairman, Barr. Ezekiel Mandyau on Monday launched a campaign against poverty and illiteracy in a move to restore peace in the troubled LGA.

“Let’s fight poverty and ignorance not each other,” says the campaign media message written in English, Berom and Fulfulde unveiled by the LG boss.

“It aims to reconcile communities involved in conflicts for participatory government,” said Mandyau at a town hall meeting in Gashish, 40kms Southwest of Jos, the capital of Plateau State.

Barkin Ladi has witnessed violent conflicts between predominantly native farmers and migrant Fulani herdsmen for over a decade.

At least 200 people were killed in the latest of such violence in June 2018.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children displaced by the attacks have yet to return to their homes for fear of being killed.

“Government is disturbed by this,” said the recently appointed Official.

Some community representatives at the interface – Mr. Jok Alamba and Ibrahim Musa had blamed the violence on illiteracy and poverty.

According to Mr. Alamba, a former Chairman of Barkin Ladi and a serving national official of the All Progressives Congress party, “when as a leader you neglect the people in their hunger and poverty, you fuel anger and hatred.”

Mr. Musa, the leader of the Fulani community in Gashish said, “when youths lack education, they take to drugs and when they go into drugs, they become violent.”

The LG Chairman’s campaign was launched along with a community needs assessment survey.

The survey form is expected to be circulated in the locality and filled by citizens.

Findings from the research will guide government policies and programmes, it was learnt.

Special Task Force authorities in the locality however say dialogue and reconciliation was key to attaining the government’s objectives.

Colonel Ojo and Colonel Audu, the Commanders of the STF Sectors 4 and 5 respectively, separately said at the meeting that officials needed to bring communities together to discuss their differences.

The State Government in 2016 set up a Peace Building Agency to resolve and prevent conflicts.

The agency holds monthly dialogue meetings with stakeholders from crisis-hit communities.

Other peace organizations like the US-based Search for Common Ground have for decades also funded peace and reconciliation programmes in conflict-affected communities in the State.

No clear records exist to show the impact of these interventions but many farmers and herders who were obviously meeting at the Gashish town hall for the first time in 16 months since the conflicts, joyfully exchanged pleasantries in what appeared to be a happy reunion.