Recently, elders from Borno and Yobe under the aegis of Borno, Yobe People’s Forum held a world press conference in Abuja to present their common position on the State of Emergency clamped on the two states and Adamawa in May last year.
Addressing the press at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the spokesman of the group and a retired general of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Marshal Allamin Daggash, urged the Federal Government not to extend the State of Emergency in the North-east due to expire on Saturday, April 19, 2014.
Accompanied by some eminent stakeholders of the two states among who were Malam Adamu Ciroma, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe and Dr. Shettima Mustapha, Air Marshal Daggash threw up a number of fundamental, nay, frequently asked questions that should render the extension of the exercise undesirable.
Critical among them were: (1) How were the insurgents able to attack the Maiduguri Air Force Base, demobilize and burn planes and other military installations despite reeling under the State of Emergency and curfew in the town? (2) How could a fleet of 20 to 30 Toyota Hilux vehicles fitted with lethal weapons move freely despite the subsisting curfew undetected? (3) How did a band of rag-tag misguided youths metamorphose into well-equipped and well-armed killing machines, stalking the beleaguered axis and freely receiving supplies of sophisticated arms and ammunition, food and medical needs by helicopters? (4) How did the Shilka Tank, a multi-purpose anti-aircraft artillery weapon positioned to secure the Giwa Barracks, fail to function resulting in heavy loss of lives of both civilians and military personnel?
All these questions lead to one answer: the emergency exercise has failed to achieve its purpose. If anything, it has exacerbated the situation given the frightening statistics of victims between January and March this year, put at about 1, 220.
The group then wondered whether the military operations in the North-east have been infiltrated by fifth columnists. This is a weighty allegation which be thoroughly investigated.
The argument is that a holistic approach was not taken to tackle the insurgency. In other words, the exercise should not have been limited to militarization of the axis. The federal government did a poor job of the humanitarian challenges that the terror war has thrown up. So far, about three million persons have been internally displaced and abandoned to their own devices. A distraught populace is a potential recruitment ground for the sect. The federal authorities ought to have made huge budgetary provisions for the setting up of camps where succour could be provided for victims as well as help to rebuild their properties ravaged by the terror war.
What is expected of the federal government is a change of strategy and not an extension of the State of Emergency. The possibility of engaging the insurgents who are predisposed to laying down their arms and embracing dialogue should also be fully explored. The opportunity to achieve this was not fully tapped before the government opted for the State of Emergency in May last year, which has proved counterproductive. There is also the compelling need to retool our security forces with state-of-the-art firepower, fire up their morale and seek the support of our neighbours.
The federal government should seriously consider putting in place a comprehensive intervention fund to help rebuild the axis so as to give the traumatized victims a sense of belonging. It should also collaborate with the governments in the three states to empower the youths as well as free their psyche of the diabolical ideology of the sect through appropriate teaching and interpretation of Islam.