“In the past, a typical Koton- karfe man is ready to fight back and has no fear of violent conflict but this has changed with the inauguration of the Community Action Response Team (CART) by ActionAid Nigeria” Hassan (not real name), Youth Leader, Koton-karfe.
Koton-karfe, one of the communities in Kogi Local Government Area is 45 minutes’ drive from the state capital, Lokoja and lies between a massive rock and the confluence river which often gets flooded during rainy seasons. The narrow, yet motorable path that leads to the community is untarred, filled with caked-muddy sand and amplifying features of a typical Nigerian excluded community.
Despite Koton-karfe’s topographical beauty and richness in fish farming, incessant violent conflicts and youths’ restiveness was the bane of the community. The chiefs and community leaders became agitated as youths grew more difficult to control especially during elections when selfish politicians and violent extremists utilise their strength to perpetrate evil, often leading to serious injuries and in some cases, deaths.
But the narrative is changing; ActionAid Nigeria together with her Local Rights Partner, PIBCID started implementing the System and Structure Strengthening Approach against Radicalisation to Violent Extremism (SARVE) II Project funded by Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund GCERF in Koton-karfe. A Community Action Response Team (CART) was set up whose responsibility is to detect early warning signs of conflicts and address the issues before they escalate. A quick win from the CART was the prevention of conflict during the election, when some youth pulldown the campaign posters of opposition parties. The youth leader, Hassan also a member of the CART knew that this action could trigger violence and organised other youths to fix back the posters in order to avert the foreseen conflict. The youths who perpetrated the act were tracked down by the CART and handed over to the police for cautioning.
The CART has remained a vital active community policing group and has since worked closely with the traditional leaders and other community stakeholders to keep Koton-karfe free from violence and push for progress.
“If not for ActionAid, our community would still be in chaos. Now when our youths gather under the trees and in other relaxation spots, they no longer argue and fight, they advise themselves. I am happy to see this change in my lifetime” Angulu, Koton-karfe community chief.