By Emmanuel Onwubiko
The challenge of insecurity, terrorism and organized crimes in Nigeria and the West African sub region were dominant thematic issues that the United Nations, the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Benin Republic and immediate past Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai debated on.
These round tables at the various global and municipal fora took place in the month of January this year. The reason for these meetings and their underlying objectives are not unconnected to the collective determination of Nigerians and the agitations of citizens for the government and the International community to double up efforts towards a resolution of these conflicts tearing apart our nation with unfathomable casualties along the line. In the estimation of experts the deaths caused by Boko Haram in Nigeria between 2011 and 2021, Boko Haram was responsible for thousands of deaths in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Nigeria is the country mostly affected by the terrorist group’s attacks. States in the North-East register the highest number of deaths. Borno is by far the most threated state, in that, Boko Haram has caused over 34 thousand deaths in this area. Among the news on attacks mostly present in the media, the kidnapping of 276 female students from a secondary school in Borno in 2014 received a global response. As of April 2021, over 100 girls were still missing, and six students were believed to have died. The specific Characteristic and number of deaths are-:Borno 34,534; Zamfara 5,155; Kaduna 4,900; Adamawa 4,086; Benue 3,636; Yobe 3,123 and Plateau 3,128. Source (www.statists.com)
Understandably, at the UN Security Council Piracy and armed robbery at sea were estimated to be costing Gulf of Guinea States $1.94 billion annually, with an additional $1.4 billion being lost in port fees and import tariffs, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as the 15-member organ explored ways to address recent security challenges in West Africa and the Sahel.
“These billions represent lost potential, and funds that could otherwise be invested in licit economies and in developing coastal communities — funds that are needed now more than ever in the continuing COVID-19 crisis,” said Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
She pointed out that the incidents in the Gulf of Guinea account for the majority of kidnappings of seafarers for ransom around the world, adding that those crimes are carried out by pirate groups gaining in sophistication and increasingly able to conduct attacks against international vessels in deeper waters.
More broadly, she pointed out, organized crime is perpetuating instability, violence and poverty across the region, with the attendant lack of opportunities and frustration driving more young people to piracy and crime and making them more receptive to radicalization narratives.
Such desperate conditions render more people vulnerable to human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and more women and girls at greater risk of exploitation and sexual violence, she said, noting that 59 per cent of detected trafficking victims in West and Central Africa are children, and 27 per cent are women.
Expressing concern over a marked uptick in drug trafficking and related insecurity in the region in recent years, she said that West Africa has become a manufacturing hub for methamphetamine, mainly destined for markets in East and South-East Asia, while cocaine trafficking poses a security threat, with the region serving as a major transit area for onward shipments to Western and Central Europe, as well as cannabis resin trafficking.
To address such threats, she called for enhanced political will and international support to strengthen comprehensive and cooperative crime responses. Outlining such action, she pointed to her office’s Global Maritime Crime Programme and the Strategic Vision for Africa, launched in 2021, as well as technical assistance extended to Togo and Nigeria, which recently achieved the “landmark step” of the first-ever successful prosecutions of piracy.
In Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday directed all the security institutions to immediately leverage Fifth Generation (5G) technology, when deployed, to enhance security in the country.
Launching the National Policy on 5G for Nigeria’s Digital Economy, the President said the Federal Government will take full advantage of the opportunities that 5G provides for the economy, security and well-being of the nation.
President Buhari also allayed fears over health safety of 5G, affirming that such issues have been ”effectively addressed” in developing a Policy that suits the country.
On the benefits of 5G technologies, the President noted it can support virtually every sector of the economy, including enhanced connectivity, improved healthcare, support for education while fostering smart cities, and boosting agriculture, among other advantages.
”It will also support security institutions with real time communication.
”5G technology is significantly faster than earlier digital technologies and it provides near real-time communication. This can play a key role in boosting our efforts towards enhancing security across the nation.
”It will enable our security institutions to effectively deploy robotics, autonomous vehicles, augmented and virtual reality to address any security challenges that we face,” he said at the launch of the policy, which was presented and approved at the Federal Executive Council meeting on the 8th of September 2021, following a robust debate.
The President explained that the National 5G Policy includes a deployment plan to ensure that major cities across the country benefit from the technologies.
He added that the policy, which is in line with the commitment of this administration to supporting the digital economy as an enabler for the diversification of our national economy, also seeks to make 5G a major driver of the economy, a catalyst for smart cities in the country and a platform for the creation of jobs that support digital economy. As earlier indicated, one of the most important meetings during which the best ways to resolve the growing insecurity in the Country was at the presentation of a public lecture in which the retired Army Chief, Tukur Buratai, says all-round development is essential in putting an end to insecurity in the country.
Buratai disclosed this while delivering a lecture at a convocation ceremony at the Modibbo Adama University in Yola, Adamawa State.
According to him, the search for security must begin in peacetime and not during war because it is a process and not a destination. Therefore, the issue of development in all sectors must be addressed before insecurity can be resolved.
“The search for security must begin in peacetime not during war. Security is a process and not a destination. This is why issues of development in all sectors must be addressed before security can be resolved.
“You cannot successfully fight insecurity during a period of persistent insecurity. We must search for security during peacetime, through all-round development,” he said.
Buratai, who is Nigeria’s ambassador to the Benin Republic, also stressed the need for inclusive governance.
He said effective counter-terrorism operations in the northeast require the application of the entire government’s approach or capabilities to disrupt, isolate and dismantle the terrorist organisations.
This according to him can be achieved through a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy requiring all elements of national power including diplomacy, military, economic resources, and information to succeed.
He commended the current service chiefs for working very hard in tackling insecurity and bringing things under control. At a book presentation dignitaries also proffered solutions to the state of insecurity in Nigeria just as the former Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai made far reaching recommendations on how to tackle the growing insecurity. But first let us reflect on what the Defence Minister said at that event.
The Minister of Defence Maj Gen Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd) is advocating improved synergy between the Military and the Civil Institution in information and intelligence sharing to end insecurity in the Country.
General Magashi stated this as distinguished guest of honour at the book launch and public lecture in honour of the Former Chief of Army Staff Lt General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (rtd) titled “The Great Exploits of Buratai” held at the International Conference Centre Abuja.
The Minister of Defence who was represented at the ceremony by his Special Adviser, Technical Major General Ahmed Tijani Jibrin (rtd) said the Military is employing kinetic power and also deploying Non kinetic approach in prosecuting various counter-terrorism and anti- banditry campaigns to restore normalcy in parts of the Country.
While extolling the contributions of Lt General TY Buratai in raising the bar of Counter- terrorism and Civil- Military relations when he was the Chief of Army Staff, he described him as a bridge builder.
The Defence Minister reassured that the Federal Government remains committed to ensuring that the Military pursue its mission in harmony with societal Values, Rule of Law and engagement to end insecurity bedeveling the country. To put the aforementioned suggestions in their appropriate contexts, it is noteworthy to recall what the UN Office in Nigeria had to say about the terrorists campaign and other manifestations of armed insurgency in Nigeria.
The Head, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria, Martin Griffiths, urged the world not to take attention away from the insurgency-ravaged North-East Nigeria, noting that the region needs not less than $1bn in aid this year.
According to him, the funds are needed to provide food and health care for the millions of people displaced and to those who remain in their homes but are vulnerable to attacks.
Griffiths, who spoke in an interview with The Associated Press in Abuja, said terrorist group, Boko Haram, and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province, are still “very, very dangerous (and) very threatening.”
He noted that victims of the decade-long insurgency in the North-East were in serious need of humanitarian support, urging the world not to forget the continuing devastation being caused by the terrorists that have killed several thousands of residents and displaced millions.
“This is a very different kind of operation and very difficult also to deter … a grave, clear and present danger, obviously, to the people and a priority for the government,” Griffiths said, adding that “the world needs to remember this is a tragedy that needs to be sorted out.”
Boko Haram, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremist rebels, launched an insurgency in the country’s North-East in 2009, to fight against western education and to establish Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria. Their rebellion has spread over the years to neighbouring West African countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Boko Haram drew international condemnation in 2014 when they abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok village, prompting the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. More than 100 of those abducted students are still missing.
Nigeria’s fight against extremists “can’t be won on the battlefield,” said the U.N. official, who urged more community development efforts.
The conflict has resulted in approximately 35,000 deaths, according to the U.N. Development Programme. For each casualty, “an additional nine people, primarily children, have lost their lives due to lack of food and resources,” the U.N. agency estimated in a report in June 2021.
Nigeria’s military continues to try to quell the violence, especially in northeastern Borno State and the Lake Chad region, but the conflict has continued year after year.
Griffiths said it would take more than a military approach to defeat terrorism in the region.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.