The pervasive armed banditry and insurgency and its associated threats to human security in the North-west and North-central regions of Nigeria, particularly, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Niger states, have, rightly so, become a subject of national security and public concern.
The multifaceted layers of criminality involved and recurrent nature of the armed criminalities in the regions call for effective mechanisms to mitigate the threat they pose to peace and security in the affected states in particular, and Nigeria in general.
Thankfully, though yet to be announced even as there were pointers to that development, it is said that the Ministry of Defence has concluded plans for the commencement of what is to be known as “Operation Accord.”
This huge operation, when it is activated, will be a major military exercise aimed at flushing out insurgents and other armed criminals from the contiguous states of Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and some parts of Kebbi state.
A Presidency source said that while recent Senate resolution calling for military intervention in the affected states is, perfectly, in order, “it is important to state that in his duty as Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari has already approved the commencement of this operation.”
The source said adequate measures have been put in place to guard against actions of suspected fifth columnists. He said beyond the announcement for the formation of the Operation Accord, no other details concerning the mode, scope, timings, and other essential information regarding the operations would be revealed so as not to compromise its success, as it was the case with other operations in the past.
In July 2019, the North-western states governors entered into negotiating with a number of armed bandits operating in the region to curb the menace and further boost internal security in the affected states.
Evidence of the successes of the negotiations include the drastic decline in the number of attacks, release of kidnapped victims and surrendering of weapons by the criminals.
However, that development last for just a while as the renewed attacks by bandits in Zamfara, Katsina and Niger states between November and December 2019 threaten the peace agreements negotiated by the governors.
In fact, it is in response to the latest threat pose by the criminals which was roundly greeted by condemnation by Nigerians, that the president green lighted formation of the Operation Accord.
However, while the expected development from the Presidency can be described as timely and apt and whereas the efforts of the military to end all forms of armed criminalities cannot be underestimated, the resilience of armed bandits’ groups operating in the affected states in the face of the military approach to quell their violent activities highlights the need for implementation of a multi-approach strategy to end the problem.
The suggested multi-approach strategy should include dialogue, coordinated community policing and civil-military support structure as imperative tools with the threats posed by the criminals.
Expectedly, the combined approach will create opportunity for conflict reduction, resolution and extended conversations on stabilising peace and security in the states and in the country as a whole.
An inclusive conflict management system encourages local commitment to the process in addressing the threats at the short and medium term. No doubt, the peace initiatives developed by the states governments, despite their limitations, if sustained, have the potential to reduce the escalating threats to security and restore public confidence in government’s ability to protect lives and property in the affected states.
In fact, in the end, it is only robust engagement with key stakeholders in the peace building process that can ensure sustainable peace and security in the North-west, North-central regions and other parts of the country.
Working together to defeat COVID-19
President Muhammadu Buhari Monday urged governors of the 36 states of the federation to work closely with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Control of COVID-19.
The call, the president said, became necessary in order to defeat the pandemic which has already caused plenty of sufferings and anguish for Nigerians and other parts of the world.
According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), about 820 million people around the world are experiencing chronic hunger. The FAO said of this number, 113 million are coping with acute severe insecurity – hunger so severe that it poses an immediate threat to their lives or livelihoods and renders them reliant on external assistance to get by.
“These people can ill-afford any potential further disruptions to their livelihoods or access to food that COVID-19 might bring,” the FAO said. “As a result of the above, as of April and May we expect to see disruptions in the food supply chains. Blockages to transport routes are particularly obstructive for fresh food supply chains and may also result in increased levels of food loss and waste. Fresh fish and aquatic products, which are highly perishable and, therefore, need to be sold, processed or stored in a relatively limited time are at particular risk.”
Also, shortages of labour could disrupt production and processing of food, notably for labour-intensive industries (e.g. crops or fishing), the FAO said.
Therefore, this pandemic should be seen as an opportunity by especially the governors to forge unity between their state and others to waltz through it. The authorities should see the problems inherent in this pandemic era as something that go beyond politics, religion and region.
The president, who made the call during a video conference with members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, an umbrella organisation for governors in Abuja, said the impact of COVID-19 pandemic is “beyond technology, power, and resources,” and pointed out that even the developed countries, just like their opposites, have not been able to contain the spread and menace of the Coronavirus.
Thus, the president said: “We have to be very careful. We need to continue to educate and persuade the people to accept the reality of the situation, and do all that is necessary to stay safe.”
However, despite its threat to the health and economic wellbeing of Nigerians, the Coronavirus provides a clear signal to states and all political leaders that a country of Nigeria’s population must remain on perennial alert for such public health emergencies and work concertedly to overcome it.
In this regard, of course, it is noteworthy that the governors, during the meeting, commended the president on the leadership and direction he has given the country in combating COVID-19 and, significantly point out that the country should see the Coronavirus emergency as a wake-up call to authorities to put in place robust infectious diseases emergency response capability.
Still, in this vein, Nigeria needs to fund research and the production of vaccines, especially for diseases such as Lassa fever that has become a perennial occurrence and support the efforts of local scientists, equip and fund the NCDC and other scientific laboratories and research endeavours.
Of course, the need for research, particularly in the area of emerging infectious diseases, cannot be underestimated because no serious country can afford to deploy measures packaged in panic and haste in its management of severely infectious disease such the COVID-19.
Although, as the president has pointed out, the world has yet to see the back of the pandemic, and it may not do so soon, those involved in the effort to contain and manage its spread in Nigeria, including the president himself, can be said to be doing a magnificent job of halting its spread and taking care of those infected.
Agreed, Nigeria has in the past failed to live up to its responsibility as far as the health of citizens is concerned, government, at all levels, must now begin to see every life as very important and for which those in positions authority must be held accountable for its wellbeing or otherwise.