Norway’s $1bn aid to North-east

Recent report to the effect that the immediate past Ambassador of Norway to Nigeria, Jens-Petter Kjemprud, had listed the organisation of two donor conferences that raised $1bn for the development of the North-east as one of his achievements in office, is quite remarkable. The gesture is an ample demonstration of good friendliness and mutual diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Kjemprud said this during a virtual farewell meeting he had with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The statement titled, ‘President Buhari commends impressive Norwegian support at ambassador’s farewell,’ read, “The outgoing ambassador, in his speech, said his four-year tenure had grown economic relations between the two nations substantially, noting in particular, the presence of more than 70 Norwegian companies in the country as well as the important step by the Norwegian Sovereign Welfare Fund to invest in the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

“He also cited as a very important achievement, the organisation of two donor conferences driven by Norway that raised more than $1bn for the development and humanitarian assistance to the North East.” Shehu also quoted the president as expressing delight at the progress made in Nigeria-Norwegian relations in the last four years. He said the president commended the envoy for the bilateral accomplishment in the area of oil and gas, fishing, humanitarian assistance in the North-east and other benefits that his efforts have brought to Nigeria.

“I congratulate you on your performance and hard work and for the help in the promotion of welfare of people in the North-east where we have problem of Internally Displaced Persons, and in infrastructural deficit. We are very grateful. Thank you,” the president reportedly told the envoy.

Since 2009, the Boko Haram insurgency and the military response have killed tens of thousands of civilians and displaced millions across the Lake Chad region, which straddles Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. Although major military campaigns in 2015–2016 succeeded in degrading the group’s territorial control, Boko Haram has proven remarkably adaptable in its tactics: the end of 2018 once again saw an uptick in attacks in Borno state. As Buhari assumes his second term as president, the conflict in the North-east appears far from resolved.

Since the early years of the crisis, Nigeria’s international partners have cautioned that Boko Haram is unlikely to be defeated on the battlefield alone. They have stressed the need for a multidimensional response that tackles the drivers of insecurity in the region, including chronic weaknesses in service delivery, corrupt governance, and environmental degradation. However, the perception of limited leverage over Nigerian counterparts, restricted access to the country’s North-east, and a response to the crisis shaped by the U.S.-led Global War on Terror limited donors’ focus on these governance dimensions on the ground. In practice, international assistance came late and donors struggled to identify viable national counterparts for stabilization programs. As a result, their efforts centered on supporting regional military efforts and responding to the large-scale humanitarian crisis.

At the international level, key donors set up the Oslo Consultative Group on the Prevention and Stabilization in the Lake Chad Region to coordinate their response activities. The Lake Chad Basin Commission and the African Union Commission have adopted a regional stabilization strategy, which highlights short-, medium-, and long-term stabilization, resilience, and recovery needs. In parallel, donors have also begun expanding bottom-up stabilization programmes aimed at addressing the drivers of insecurity at the local level. These efforts have generally fallen into three main categories: programmes aimed at strengthening local conflict prevention and mitigation systems, programmes aimed at restoring local governance and basic services, and programmes aimed at fostering social cohesion and ensuring the reintegration of former combatants.

As part of efforts to rebuild the insurgeny ravaged region, the Buhari government established the North East Development Commission (NEDC) in 2017, after the Bill establishing the commission was passed by the two legislative chambers. Then, on October 25, 2017, President Buhari assented to the Bill, then signed it into an Act.

The NEDC is charged with the responsibility to, among other things, receive and manage funds from allocation of the Federal Account, international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling the menace of poverty, illiteracy level, ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the North-east states- Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe.

On its part, the World Bank has said it will give up to $2.1 billion in interest free loans (for the first ten years) to aid the Nigerian government to rebuild its North-east region that has been battered by the Boko Haram sect. The announcement came after President Buhari’s meeting with representatives of the bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the WHO in Washington.

We commend the kind gesture extended to Nigeria by Ambassador Kjemprud, through his ingenious initiatives with the support of his Norwaygian compatriots. It is necessary, however, to call on other international friends and global partners of Nigeria to emulate the worthy gesture of Kjemprud in assisting Nigeria not only to rebuild the North-east but also in revamping her economy that has over the years been recession prone.

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