Jos, Plateau State: Experts in peace-building, security and good governance have warned that the growing institutional shutdown as a result of the deadly coronavirus disease could lead to rise in violent crimes.

Since the virus was declared a global emergency in February by the World Health Organization, there have been massive shutdown of businesses, schools and other public institutions globally.

This has caused general shortages in food and other household products.

It is a normal response to emergences, says a Nigerian Mercy Corps official, Mr. Clement Adole.

However, if not curbed, this could lead to looting and other crimes, said Adole on Thursday in Jos, the capital of Plateau State.

“If the scorch continues, eventually it might lead to closure of some security infrastructures as well.

“When that happens, individuals and groups might take advantage of the loopholes created to stock up their stores to survive the coronavirus and that’s one important impact of the virus to security,” Adole stated at a workshop on “Collaborative Problem-Solving” organized by a coalition of Civil Societies under a US-funded project, Building Civic Participation and Good Governance in Plateau State (BCP-GGP).

Grounded dialogues

Security might not necessarily closedown for fear of the virus, because as an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Saleh Ibrahim puts it, “it might further complicate the situation.”

However, if people cannot freely associate, peace dialogues and information sharing between stakeholders especially as it affects security might be hindered, said Ibrahim at the BCP-GGP workshop.

Ibrahim, a lead implementing partner in the BCP-GGP project said, “In every society, dialogue is more effective than the use of Force in conflict resolution. Dialogue brings more results than the barrel of the gun and that is what the BCP-GGP project is trying to promote.

“This program is aimed at encouraging communities, civilian groups and associations as well as civil societies to work with the police and vise versa to mitigate crime which if left unattended could breed armed conflicts.

“But if the current fears caused by the coronavirus persist, no one will want to come out to participate and when that happens, it is a setback to security and peace building.”

To avert this, an Officer of the Plateau State Police Command, CSP Victor Elias suggests, modern communication technology should be effectively utilized to build “stronger interactions and community relations.”

Joint solutions

The search for a lasting solution to crime and violence is a collective task, says another BCP-GGP partner, Mr. Wilson Iyamu.

“The Police cannot do it alone. Government cannot, the community itself cannot solve it. That’s why we need to come together to work out possible solutions. We have all it takes to make a safer society,” Iyamu said at the workshop.

This according to him is the main goal of the project.

“We are trying to look at the way we can bring communities, organizations, civil societies, government actors, security agencies and others to come together and work collaboratively for sustainable development.

“We discovered that the gap between government and the people is much.

“Many people do not have confidence in the security within their community. That is why they find it difficult to relate with them because they fear that when they give confidential information, they will be exposed.

“The police are also saying that the community is not willing to give information without which they cannot work, which is true. That is why we are trying to bridge that gap.

“The last program we had – “Building Trust”, we brought in government officials. The government should work with the people even in its program and policy design. You don’t just go to a community and execute a project you like. Instead, ask the people and give them what they need at that time. That way there will be lasting impact.”

The project which also has Mrs. Esther Ibanga, the Executive Director, Women Without Walls Initiative (WoWWI) started in October 2019 and will be rounded-off in September, 2020.

It features monthly meetings and trainings on different sociopolitical issues, involving government officials, civil society organizations, community leaders, women and youth groups among others.