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‘Boko Haram crisis’ still the most significant challenge in Lake Chad region

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The region has been plagued by years of conflict and violence resulting in widespread devastation and human suffering that has left deep scars in the hearts of affected communities.

For decades, Lake Chad Basin countries have grappled with various forms of insecurity – including banditry, abductions, highway robbery and cattle rustling – but the most significant security challenge remains the “Boko Haram crisis”.

So said the former chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, in his keynote address at the first International Conference on Insecurity, Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation in the Lake Chad Region.

The two-day conference was organised by the department of history and strategic studies at the University of Maiduguri. Attended by participants from Nigeria, Chad, the Niger Republic, and Cameroon, it opened on Monday, May 27, and ended on Tuesday, May 28.

Buratai emphasised that Nigeria and its neighbouring countries needed to pay serious attention to issues of security in the Lake Chad region and the Sahel because of instability of the area.

He highlighted the interconnected nature of security challenges, noting that unrest in one country could easily spread to neighbouring nations.

He acknowledged the complexity and challenges of counterinsurgency operations – against the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram, and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) – and emphasised the need for strategic planning, coordination and commitment.

“The military operation is fundamental as it is a coordination of all the stakeholders. We give kudos to all of them for their job so far.”

He recommended critical reforms to strengthen the Nigerian Police Force, saying: “If the police are properly positioned and motivated with a good welfare package, in addition to an increase in the number, they will be able to cope with emerging threats.

“If we follow the UN standard of 400 citizens to a policeman, you will see a significant difference, but with what we have, you discover that our capacity is still way below standard.

“The challenges back in the 60s and 70s are not the same now as they have evolved over time. We need more aggressive action to secure our borders and defend our territorial integrity.

“Tackling insurgency is a formidable task that demands unwavering determination and a comprehensive approach. While the road ahead may be arduous and difficult, success is achievable with the right level of dedication and resolve.

“Counterinsurgency operations demand a long-term perspective, a deep understanding of the local context and effective cooperation among various stakeholders with an unobstructed vision and a collective will to address the root causes of insurgency.

“It is indeed possible to counter such threats and restore security and stability in volatile regions.”

Buratai said the region had been plagued by years of conflict and violence resulting in widespread devastation and human suffering that had “left deep scars in the hearts of affected communities”.

“Rebuilding trust among communities and fostering reconciliation are critical components in achieving lasting peace that can heal the wounds of the past.”

Professor Aliyu Shugaba, the vice-chancellor of the university, noted that the institution had been a target of insurgents, but it had remained open even at the height of the conflict.

He called on participants to thoroughly investigate historical events “such as the Boko Haram insurgency and come up with better solutions needed by society”.

Mohammed Kyari, head of the university’s history department and the convener of the conference, recommended a national legal framework for the management of the mass exit and reinsertion of repentant insurgents into society.

He told RNI that the conference was purposefully organised to bring together all the key stakeholders – such as traditional rulers, scholars, and serving and retired military officers – to find solutions to end insecurity and the deepening humanitarian crisis that was affecting people in the region, particularly internally displaced persons (IDPs).

It was imperative to resettle displaced persons in their ancestral homes in the Lake Chad region, he said.

“Fifteen years of Boko Haram [JAS]and ISWAP insurgency have resulted in massive population displacement and poverty. Climate change has worsened the degradation of the environment. It is critical for the federal and state governments to restore sustainable peace and stability in the Lake Chad region by addressing the root causes of the conflict.”

The Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-amin El-Kanemi, represented by Bana Kachalla Ali Gajiram, said the way to resettle IDPs was to restore civil authority by reinstalling traditional rulers along with adequate security operatives.

Destroyed houses and critical infrastructure, such as schools, markets and hospitals, needed to be reconstructed, he said.

“The government needs to recharge the Lake Chad region to restore sustainable peace and stability.

“There are 10 agrarian districts or local government areas of Borno State in the Lake Chad region – Abadam, Monguno, Marte, Magumeri, Gubio, Guzamala, Kaga, Kukawa, Mobbar and Nganzai.

“Before the insurgency farmers produced 15,000 tons of fish and grains annually. But now inhabitants in the Lake Chad region cannot fish or farm because of insecurity, which has resulted in poverty, displacement, unemployment and instability.

“The Borno State government, under the agency for humanitarian assistance, is working hard to ensure the safe and dignified return of about 11,000 refugees from neighbouring countries, such as those in the Niger Republic where many of the refugees are originally from the Abadam Local Government Area.

“The Borno State government, in collaboration with the federal government, is preparing to resettle the refugees in Malum Fatori town, the headquarters of Abadam.

“It is imperative for the government to step up measures to address the lingering insecurity by providing adequate security operatives to ensure the safe return of displaced persons and their traditional rulers to restore civil authority in the region.

“It’s imperative that people can continue their businesses and farming activities as they did before the start of the insurgency.”

He recommended that the government investigate and implement drilling of crude oil to harness the potential and natural resources of the region for the betterment of not only the people of Borno State or the Lake Chad region but also of Nigeria.”

Ali Gabchiya, a representative of Niger Republic, told RNI that the conference centred on ways to address the ongoing conflicts to restore sustainable peace and stability and enable socioeconomic growth.

“We discussed several strategic measures to overcome the challenges affecting the Lake Chad region in terms of security, politics and the environment.

“A key measure is through dialogue, which has been used to resolve conflicts successfully in many places across the world.

“We urge the governments of Nigeria, the Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon to consider dialogue as a means to address insecurity so that IDPs can be resettled in their ancestral homes, live peacefully and become productive members of society.”

Professor Daud Abdallah of the Middle East Monitor MEMO said the insurgency had been caused by persistent unresolved grievances that had resulted in radicalisation.

The crisis had persisted for as long as it had because of the absence of good governance. He called for justice, social and political inclusion while respecting the dignity of all.



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