President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration was embarking on a revised approach to addressing the 13-year conflict and insurgency in the North East.
President Buhari, who also said his government would not relent in its efforts towards a return to peace and normalcy, pledged that Nigerians in the region would, in the coming months, witness a change from the protracted insurgency to peace and development in their respective communities.
The president spoke at the inauguration of the Presidential Committee on the Repatriation, Return, and Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-east of Nigeria, which preceded the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Council Chambers, presidential villa, Abuja.
The reassurance is coming sixteen months to the end of Buhari’s eight-year tenure of two terms of four years each.
The revised approach
He said: “At the advent of this administration in 2015, I pledged to Nigerians that I will restore peace in the North East and return it to the path of development and growth. I remain committed to this promise.
“To the people of the North-East, particularly the children and future of the North-East, we will never forget you and your courage, sacrifice and endurance has been exemplary.
“I pledge to you that in the coming months you will begin to witness a shift away from a protracted insurgency to peace building, stabilization, and ultimately development in your respective communities as we embark on a revised approach to addressing this conflict- A Return to Normalcy.”
The president stressed that the committee’s terms of reference entails a shift from managing the situation to activating a permanent solution for effective and practicable restoration.
He said the committee, among others, is expected to develop a concise three-year action plan by the end of March 2022 that incorporates national and state level plans, providing a clear pathway for the restoration of peace and development in the North East.
President Buhari said the committee would also develop and implement a phased plan for the repatriation, returns, resettlement of IDPs and restoration of livelihoods, incorporating global best practices that give dignity to the affected populations..
He added that it would also be responsible for the development and implementation of a coordinated peace building and reconciliation programme that is culturally appropriate and community driven.
Similarly, the committee is also saddled with the responsibility of strengthening collaboration with key donors, development partners and private sector organisations that are critical to the mobilisation of resources and implementation of programmes.
He charged the committee members to adopt the guiding principles of accountability, delineation of duty and community-driven methods to address issues.
He said: “Members will dedicate more time to the conduct of field visits to regularly engage with state government, communities and key stakeholders.
“Due to prevailing fiscal constraints, Ministries, Departments and Agencies will utilise existing budgetary resources and repurpose funds to programmes approved under this initiative.”
President Buhari directed the committee to submit monthly progress report whilst the first progress review meeting would be held in the first week of March 2022.
Underscoring the enormous task ahead of the Committee, he said: “History beckons and Nigeria calls on you to be the team that finally charts this new path to the restoration of sustainable progress in the North East and I strongly believe this could lead to the birthing of a template for addressing insurgency and instability in other parts of our country and across the world. Failure to deliver on this task you have been assigned is not an option.”
President Buhari also used the occasion to commend Borno state Governor Babagana Zulum, who was present at the inauguration with his Gombe counterpart, Inuwa Yahaya, for his unparalleled commitment to his people and exemplary leadership.
He also expressed appreciation to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for support in the area of coordination of humanitarian actors and UNDP regional stabilisation facility, providing support in the area of security and the rule of law.
The members of the committee include: the Ministers of Finance, Budget & National Planning; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development; Interior; Foreign Affairs and Defence.
Others are the National Security Adviser, Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Defence Staff, Director General, State Security, Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Director-General, North-East Development Commission, Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants & Internally Displaced Persons, Director-General, National Emergency Management Agency and Chief of Defence Intelligence.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the inauguration, Governor Zulum expressed delight at the committee’s inauguration, saying the displaced persons would now be repatriated and the issue of repentant Boko Haram insurgents further addressed.
He said: “Indeed, we are so much happy, especially those of us that are in the North East because thousands of people were displaced, some are taking refuge in the Republic of Chad, in the Republic of Niger, Cameroon. And this is the time that the Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with the state governments of the North East will facilitate the repatriation of the internally displaced persons that are living in our neighbouring countries to Nigeria. The committee is also to look into the management of the repentant Boko Haram members.
“So, indeed, we are so grateful and the entire north eastern government will give maximum support to this committee. We will provide the necessary support to the federal government under the Distinguished Leadership of Mr. President, we shall provide support to Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and others and the military to ensure that this process yields the desired result.”
Senate urges Buhari
In a related development, the Senate Wednesday s urged the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, send fighter jets to flush out terrorists (kidnapping and killing innocent Nigerians) from their hideouts.
The call was made during plenary in resolutions reached following a point of order raised on the “Urgent need for the Federal Government to take drastic actions to bring to an end the act of banditry and kidnapping in Faskari Local Government Area.”
The point of order was raised by Senator Bello Mandiya (APC Katsina South).
Relying on Orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, Mandiya noted that the act of banditry and kidnapping had become a daily incidence in Katsina with huge consequence of loss of lives, means of livelihood and displacement of communities.
The lawmaker recalled that, “on Sunday, 31st January, 2022, gunmen struck Ruwan Godiya a community in Faskari local government area of Katsina state where Thirty Eight (38) members of the community were kidnapped.”
He stated that the federal government had made frantic effort at curbing the menace by setting up Operation Sharan Daji and Inter-Agency Task Force to tackle cases of banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping in Katsina state.
“Worried that the continuous security challenges and related attacks by bandits on towns, villages and communities in Faskari local government area have meted untold hardship on the people and have subjected the affected areas under serious survival threat; and
“Further worried that if this menace is not drastically and promptly addressed, the consequence is going to be huge on food sufficiency since the affected communities are mostly farmers,” Mandiya said.
Contributing, Senator Kabir Abdullahi Barkiya (APC Katsina Central), faulted the inability of the military to contain the situation despite several calls on the troops to act.
In his remarks, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the repeated cases of kidnappings and killings made it imperative for the military to “wake up” to protect Nigerians.
He wondered why full scale action was yet to be carried out by the military in spite of increased funding for security in the 2022 budget by the Executive and National Assembly.
He said: “The expectation of the Senate is that there is supposed to be a remarkable difference in success in terms of the fight against insurgence, banditry and militancy in Nigeria
“The military is getting better funding from the government and what we expect is to see an improvement in output.
“I know the resources are not enough, but recently for one and a half years, government has upscaled the level of funding for our military.
“Secondly, when we declared the bandits as terrorists, my understanding was they are going to be dealt with ruthlessly now. I wonder whether that is the case.
“The military like some of our colleagues have said need to wake up. We want to see a difference because we have made a difference in terms of funding.
“I know funding alone will not be enough, but funding can make a difference and we expect a difference in outcome.
“Thirdly, we need to mobilise our citizens, because when a hundred people are kidnapped and abducted, they are not taken by aircraft, they are taken by motor bikes, pass through the villages and possibly towns. How come do we then say that nobody has seen something?
“We need our citizens to be part and parcel of our security architecture. In fact, there’s no way we can achieve better security for this country without the participation of the citizens in the fight against Insecurity.”
Accordingly, the Senate urged the Security Agencies to comb all known hide outs of the kidnappers in a bid to rescue the Thirty Eight (38) persons abducted by the gunmen in Ruwan Godiya.
It also called on the federal government to send enough military personnel and fighter jets to apprehend the bandits and restore normalcy in the affected areas.
Red Cross on missing Nigerians
Meanwhile, 24,000 Nigerians have been reported missing and been traced by their families, International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC).
Also, a total of 2.2 million persons in the North East were displaced from their original homes at the moment.
Vice President of the ICRC Gilles Carbonnier made this known Tuesday when he paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Sadiya Umar Farouq in Abuja.
The International aid agency also said it had requested partnership with the federal government through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in resolving the 24,000 requests of missing Nigerians.
Carbonnier, who stated that a total of 2.2m displaced persons were domiciled in the North East, also offered the services of its Central Tracing Agency in finding missing persons during disasters as well as the forensic management of the dead during emergencies.
He said: “We have received 24,000 requests from Nigerian families who came to us to ask for news of their daughters or sons who are unaccounted for.
“We seek to work with different entities to progress in the resolution of these missing cases. In Africa, this accounts for half of the case load of missing persons on the continent.
“We also have strong expertise in forensic science on how to deal with what we call dead body management in cases of emergencies, to help in the dignified management of the dead and also ensure that people don’t go missing during emergencies and disasters.
“We celebrated the 100th anniversary of our Central Tracing Agency that deals with identifying missing persons and reconnecting them with their families. In that framework, I think that it will be good for Nigeria to have an inter-ministerial mechanism where these cases of missing persons can first be registered in a central data base.
“We also seek the domestication or implementation of traditions of the Kampala convention and see how we can assist in finding feasible solutions that are consistent with the principles of the Kampala Conventions.”
In her response, the minister appreciated the International Committee of Red Cross for its numerous humanitarian works in Nigeria, especially in the North East and their provision of support and succour for the displaced persons affected by disaster.
“The main focus here apart from the humanitarian intervention is to provide durable solutions to these vulnerable groups.
“The Federal government has approved the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons which also includes working towards the domestication of the Kampala Convention. We are working with the National Assembly and relevant authorities,” Farouq said.
“The ministry is keen on working with the ICRC on missing persons to learn from your expertise on addressing these issues. There are a lot of issues of unaccompanied minors in the IDP camps who have lost their parents and we don’t even know their identities. This is something the government is working on to see how these unaccompanied minors can be identified. We can collaborate with your Agency to trace their identities and find lasting solutions to missing persons in emergency situations.
“The forensic science of managing mass fatalities during disasters is very important as well and I am sure that the National Emergency Management Agency will key into this forensic support. These are areas that the ministry is very much interested in,” the minister said.
The IRCS delegation also included Bruno Raymond, Protection Coordinator ICRC Geneva, Mona Sadek, Deputy Regional Director for Africa and Head of delegation ICRC Abuja Yann Benton.