It was a visibly somber mood Wednesday as Borno state Governor Babagama Umara Zulum appealed to the National Assembly to help put in place practical measures that would save his people from the agonies of Boko Haram insurgents and end the menace.
He specifically called on the lawmakers to give the military high command the latitude to recruit into the army indigenes of the state willing to defend their communities.
The governor spoke when a nine-man House Committee on Defense visited him at the Government House, Maiduguri in company of the Theater Commander Operation Lafiyà Dole, Maimalari Cantonment Maiduguri, Major-General Olusegun Gabriel Adeniyi and other senior military officers.
He lauded the federal government and the nation’s military for their assistance and support to the people and government of the state since the insurgency broke out, particularly between 2015 and 2017.
The governor said: “I thank you for the visit and interface with the government with a view to finding lasting solutions to the lingering crisis. I have mentioned it severally. We acknowledge that fact that federal government and Nigerian military have done well between 2015 and 2018.
“I even said it long ago that there is however a demarcation, a very distinct one between what happened and what is happening now. There is a difference in the manner the military operated years back and how they are operating today. There is need for re-strategy.
“Hitherto, Borno state has suffered greatly. Thousands of people have been displaced, lots of property destroyed, 20 LGAs were displaced, all roads linking Borno state were closed or blocked. It is the right time communities should resettle. We acknowledge all the supports by the federal government and the military.
“We want the IDPs to return back to their communities.
“But notwithstanding the gains between 2018 and to date, we have experienced series of attacks. Therefore, the federal government and Nigerian military need to revisit the strategy of 2015-2017 so that we can end the insurgency and allow development to take place.
“What we should do is to take the fight to the enclaves. The communities are rendering information to the military to the best of my knowledge.
“Another issue is the commercial activities in the state, how it has been paralysed. There is no place for employment of the unemployed youths. No place for farmers to farm or farming.
“The military should initiate recruitment of youths into the Nigerian Armed Forces for the youths to be trained and deployed to fight the war. Fortunately, COAS is aware of the need for return of activities. We have discussed severally with COAS. He has lifted ban on fish farming recently. We have conveyed the massage to the fishermen. We intend to reach Damasak to allow them also to return to their fish farming.
“I also want to mention something important-the reconstruction. In 2017, it was clearly stated that the Nigerian military operations were clear and the Nigerian military says we have to follow the rules of operation and ensure stability to allow settlements exist where people will go back to their ancestral homes and continue their life.
“In Monguno, over 500,000 people have been displaced and are in IDP camps, in Niger Republic 120,000, in Cameroon Republic 68,000 and in Dikwa we have smaller number who are eager to return back to farm. In Dikwa they want to go back to their farmlands.
“Honestly, we want to open first with the Nigeria Police Force and NSCDC to provide security for lives and property of the people. There is need for the National Assembly to lift ban on recruitment of the locals into the Nigerian Armed Forces. I would like you to kindly advise the Hon. Speaker to come and make massive recruitment of 100,000 youths into the Nigerian Armed Forces. In Borno state, 50,000 can join the Nigerian armed forces and inject into the system,” he governor further said.
Earlier, Chairman of the committee, Hon. Baba Jimi Benson said: “We are here in Maiduguri to commiserate with you and people of Borno over the recent Auno Boko Haram attack.
“We are also on fact-finding mission of military operations and security challenges where we have met with the Theater Commander, Operation Lafiyà Dole and other senior military officers at the theater command headquarters Maimalari Cantonment Maiduguri.
“He told us his version of the operations and challenges. We are now here to meet you to carefully listen to you to take notes and see how we can proffer solutions within the shortest time possible,” Benson said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Wednesday passed for second reading a bill seeking to establish the National Commission Against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), said the functions of the commission when established, would among others, include identifying sources and routes of small arms and ammunitions; identifying those involved in the illicit trade; and providing harmonisation of intelligence and information collection.
Adeyemi described the proliferation of small arms and weapons as a phenomenon responsible for destabilising the peace, development and threatening the national security of some countries in Africa.
While noting that the local root causes of conflicts were numerous and diverse, Adeyemi, however, said in all local conflicts, the diffusion of illegal arms and weapons of terror had played a decisive role in the escalation and intensification of these conflicts.
He said: “The proliferation of these weapons affects the intensity and duration of violence and encourages militancy rather than a peaceful resolution of unsettled differences.
“In Nigeria, this has become a serious security challenge as most parts of the country experience high level crimes perpetrated using illicit arms.”
Citing a United Nations report, Adeyemi raised concerns that “a substantial percentage of illegal arms that is in circulation in West Africa are in Nigeria.”
This, he argued, had fuelled violent conflicts as witnessed in the Niger Delta, kidnapping in the South-east, armed robbery pandemic in the South-west, ethno-religious violence on the Plateau, and the Boko Haram operations in the North-east, saying this had plunged the nation into serious state of insecurity.
He added that electoral violence by gun-wielding thugs and assassinations of several political leaders since 1999 had jeopardised free and fair elections in many states of the federation.
“There are numerous ways by which small arms can be smuggled into the country because of their light-weight and concealable nature. Trucks have been used to smuggle arms into the country, while a number of them are brought in on donkeys, camels and on foot.
“Similarly, Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) are transported through waterways, boat to add of arms from great lake’s conflict areas have been reported to have been discharged at Warri and Bonny towns of Niger Delta.
“Also, Small Arms Survey (SAS) has reported on Malian arms smugglers packing small arms in waterproof sacks, attaching them into the bottom of bots for transfer to countries along the River Niger,” he said.
While lending his voice in support of the passage of the bill, Senator Adamou Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), accused men of the Nigerian Customs Service of conniving with arms dealers to smuggle in small arms into the country through the borders.
He lamented that if the bill is not passed into law by the National Assembly, “violence will continue” unabated.
Also in his contribution, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP Taraba South) cited the United States of America as a country without strong gun control laws, saying “they are paying dearly for it today.”
Contributing to the debate, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West) lamented that the proliferation of small arms has become a thriving business because those involved in the illicit trade were not apprehended by relevant security agencies.
The bill was accordingly referred to the committee on national security and intelligence for further legislative inputs and outputs, and report back in four weeks
‘Confab report way out’
Proffering solutions to the nation’s security challenges however, a former UN Under Secretary, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, said the federal governor must revisit the 2014 national conference (confab) reports as a way out of the quagmire.
Gambari said in the face of growing insecurity, killings across the country and loss of confidence in the security architecture, it was important to adopt the many recommendations provided at the 2014 conference which can be used to re-structure policing and promote synergy among police at all levels.
About six years after the conference, there has been calls by stakeholders, experts and activists for the adoption of the reports to tackle the many challenges facing the country.
Speaking in Abuja Wednesday at a public lecture titled: ‘Development Resolution: Overcoming Global Conflicts and their Local Interactions’, organised by Ubuntu Centre for African Peace building in collaboration with West African Network for Peace building (WANEP), and Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD), he said there was confidence loss in the current arrangement.
“There is lack of confidence in the current arrangement; the evidence is that people are being killed every day. There were recommendations at the 2014 National Conference. We better go and look at it and see how we can have a structure that will take up to the local, to the state and to the national police that will work together and not one at the expense of the other,” he said
Gambari further said the localisation of the security apparatus was paramount, adding that unless Nigeria localised its security apparatus and architecture, it would not work.
The former Nigeria’s external affairs minister said tackling violence, extremism and terrorism needed the cooperation of local communities.
“You need intelligence and to get it, you need to become friends and partners of the local community, but when there are human rights violations, you are afraid of the security, you can’t get that kind of cooperation,” he said.
He also stressed that even as Nigeria was striving to achieve peace, putting in place infrastructures for development wouldl be important because peace development will not be a sustainable means of livelihood.
“Even if you have peace, you can’t eat peace, peace is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition for development, because you must have a means of livelihood.
“How do you build employment opportunities? How do you build educational system that emphasises entrepreneurship, in order words, job providers not job seekers?. How do you provide infrastructure for people to invest, how do you encourage local investment?” the former minister queried.
Also in another lecture, Director Centre of Global Studies, Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences Marek Hrubec, spoke extensively on the need for Africa to develop its own in the aftermath of the colonial era other than the popular Chinese model.
Hrubec, who lauded the Chinese model as being attractive, transformed infrastructure and lifted millions out of poverty, said it was high time Africa developed its own model governed by its own experiences, goals and objectives.
He opined that the model should not just be indigenous to the African culture but should be able to tackle poverty, because according to him, 40 percent of the global poor lived in Africa especially sub-Saharan Africa.
Another participant at the lecture, Mr. Ayi Joseph, stressed that poverty, hunger and ignorance were fuelling conflict and insecurity and stalling development.
He noted that Nigeria had a significant number of poor people vulnerable to be used as instrument of conflict.
To this end, Joseph, said in addressing insecurity, Nigeria must develop strategies to reduce poverty and hunger.
Also, Director General of Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) Maj-Gen. Garba Wahab (rtd), advised that in tackling insecurity, Nigeria should settle its problem internally.
To this end, Wahab urged Nigeria not to rely entirely on neighbouring countries which according to him, lacked the wherewithal.
He however, stressed that collaboration among security agencies was also key.