The Ekiti State Government has assured of its readiness to engender peaceful coexistence with neighbouring states and resolve boundary disputes with them amicably.
The Deputy Governor, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi, gave the assurance while making a presentation at a two-day interactive session organised by the National Boundary (NBC) with committees on the fringes in the Southwest Zone.
The session was held in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
A statement by the Special Assistant (Media) to the Deputy Governor, Odunayo Ogunmola said the forum was attended by chairmen of the Boundary Committees (SBCs) in their respective states.
Other Deputy Governors who attended the parley were Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele (Ogun), Mr. Rauf Olaniyan (Oyo), Mr. Lucky Ayedatiwa (Ondo), Mr. Benedict Alabi (Osun) and Dr. Obafemi Hamzat (Lagos). Alabi and Hamzat were represented.
The NBC Director General, Mr. Adamu Adaji; the Surveyor-General of the Federation, Mr. Adeniran Taiwo also delivered papers while the Plenary session was chaired by renowned historian and expert on boundary matters, Prof. Anthony Asiwaju.
The six Southwest States resolved to develop better strategies to manage boundary disputes and prevent them from snowballing into violence, destruction of lives and property which could hinder development and investment.
Addressing the session, Otunba Egbeyemi said the state government recognised a peaceful relationship with neighbouring states as critical to the development of boundary communities and catalyst to their economic and social advancement.
Describing land matters in Nigeria as very sensitive and volatile, Otunba Egbeyemi noted that it was important for stakeholders to always engage in dialogue without allowing boundary disputes to result in skirmishes.
He said: “We (Ekiti) are committed to peaceful coexistence with neighbouring states. Our traditional rulers and community leaders have always been proactive in bringing such issues to our attention which we have attended to with dispatch.
“We have intervened in disputes between Osan Ekiti in Moba Local Government of Ekiti State and Ilale in Oke Ero Local Government of Kwara State and between Okemesi Ekiti in Ekiti West Local Government of Ekiti State and Ila Orangun in Ila Local Government of Osun State.
“This wouldn’t have been achieved if not for the cooperation received from the concerned neighbouring states. Our coming together in this forum will engender peace and development in our states. We should maintain a cordial relationship with ourselves.”
Ogun Governor, Prince Abiodun, acknowledged the strategic role of NBC in the peaceful resolution of disputes in Nigeria, saying that violence arising therefrom could retard the development of boundary communities and discourage investors.
He said: “This Interactive Session provides veritable opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas towards resolving boundary disputes in our States.
“We are neighbours and we must live together in peace. For example, you cannot get to Lagos State without passing through Ogun State.
“Boundary disputes in Southwest have not been unmanageable because we all belong to the Yoruba extraction and we were together at one time. It is important to adopt peaceful means to resolve issues.”
The NBC boss disclosed that similar interactive sessions had been held in four other geopolitical zones: Northwest, Northeast, Northcentral and Southeast with that of Southsouth to hold soon.
He stressed that internal boundaries must be clearly demarcated, mapped out and not only visible to the stakeholders but must be respected by all.
Adaji called for a synergy between NBC and SBCs calling for their proper and timely funding to perform their statutory functions.
The Surveyor General of the Federation, Mr. Taiwo, suggested sustained sensitization of the citizenry, involvement of the people in the decision-making process, improved infrastructure around the country and appropriate legislation for boundary maintenance as some panacea to boundary disputes.
The Chairman of the Plenary Session, Prof. Asiwaju, described the boundaries among States in Nigeria as artificial urging the people not to allow such to divide them.
He noted that African countries suffered a similar fate in the hands of the colonial masters who partitioned them without regards to cultural, ethnic and lingual ties that had bound them together centuries earlier.
Prof. Asiwaju suggested that areas of prescribed authorities of traditional rulers are well defined by the instruments of their appointments saying the move would help reduce tension on where their kingdoms start and end.
The scholar urged political leaders to employ continuous dialogue and other peacebuilding and conflict resolution mechanisms to resolve boundary disputes and prevent them from leading to senseless killings.