By Ifeanyi Ottah
When President Muhammadu Buhari took office on May 29 after defeating the incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in March 28th elections, he promised to deal effectively with the Boko Haram terrorists in the country.
With the appointment of new Service chiefs and President Buhari’s recent visit to the united States of America for bilateral tucks and most importantly to seek the U.S. assistance on ways to defeat Boko Haram terrorist, it is hoped that the days of the Islamist group are now numbered.
Hear him, “We know how they started and where they are now and we will rapidly give attention to security. I believe we will effectively deal with them in two months when we get into office. We will be needing the cooperation of neighbouring countries, such as Cameroun, Chad and Niger. There were efforts made by President Goodluck Jonathan administration, but it was not enough and it came rather late…”
However it would be recalled that part of the reasons why Jonathan lost his re-election bid was majorly his inability to defeat Boko Haram insurgents and bring back about 276 abducted Chibok school girls.
When Jonathan won the 2011 Presidential Election, he promised that the insecurity in the country would be a thing of the past, saying that his administration was committed to the security of lives and property of Nigerians. But the killings, bombings and deaths of Innocent and helpless Nigerians did not end.
The former President came under heavy criticism for not ‘acting swiftly’ when the incident happened. The situation worsened under Jonathan’s watch when the onslaught by the Boko Haram terrorists continued with their activities, killing thousands of people and capturing Nigerian territories in the process.
Meanwhile few months to the last general elections, the combined forces of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun and Niger succeeded in recapturing most of the territories that were occupied by the Boko Haram, routing them town after town and chased them out of many towns; many kidnapped women and children were rescued from the Sambisa Forest where about 276 abducted Chibok school girls were reportedly kept.
Many Nigerians questioned why the military had allowed the terrorist group to gain grounds and destroy thousands of lives and property before waking up to fight them just few weeks to the presidential election.
Boko Haram started in Nigeria in 2002 but it became well noticed in 2009. From the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua till date, the sect whose activities had turned violent had continued to wreak havoc, especially in the northern part of the country.
From July 26 to 29, 2009 during the Boko Haram uprising nearly 1,000 people were killed in clashes between the terrorists and soldiers throughout northern Nigeria and that marked the beginning of the Boko Haram terrorist activities in Nigeria.
But on July 20, Mohammed Yusuf, the spiritual leader of Boko Haram, was later arrested by Nigerian soldiers and later died in the hands of men of Nigeria Police Force, following the uprising, Abubakar Shekau took control of the group.
The activities of Boko Haram terrorists continued unabated from 2009 and were responsible for the deaths of over 12,000 people and the displacement of millions.
Meanwhile, the climax of the terrorists’ activities, which made international headlines was when about 276 school girls from Chibok community in Borno State were abducted by the terrorists.
Buhari however has said that Nigerians have lived with fear and insecurity for far too long.
“The human and material costs of the insurgency in my country and to my people are staggering and unacceptable, he said.”
PRESIDENT’S PLAN UNVEILED:
President Buhari at the United States Institute for Peace recently said defeating Boko Haram and finding a durable solution to the underlying causes of the insecurity in Nigeria are, therefore, a major priority of the new administration.
“Nigerians understand that terrorism stifles development and undermines the stability of society. The government that I lead is committed, and will do whatever it takes, to free Nigeria from menace of terrorism.
“No matter how long it takes, we will reclaim every inch of Nigeria territory that is under the control of Boko Haram. We shall continue to do these within the frame work of the rule of law and in compliance with our international and domestic human rights obligations.
“Let me emphasize that as a government, we have no illusions whatsoever about the enormity of the challenges ahead of us. We know that it will be a long and bruising struggle, but this is a fight we are into win. Failure is not an option for us. We do not contemplate it. In the first week of my presidency, I visited Chad and Niger to strengthen cooperation within the Lake Chad Basin Commission Members, the primary region of the Boko Haram insurgency. Upon my return to Nigeria from the US, I shall visit Cameroon on the 29th of July to further strengthen our sub-regional efforts of countering terrorism.
Already, I have released $21 million for the rapid take of the force set up by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin commission, comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria plus Benin to Jointly combat the insurgency.
“We are confident that we will defeat terrorism in our country and region, because we have the will to win this fight. We will win because we have the support of the Nigerian People who voted us into office to do things differently in order to secure them from harm and provide for their prosperity and wellbeing. We will win because the united states and indeed, the International Community have pledged to stand with us in solidarity.
“But winning the battle against terrorism means we have to do things differently; after all, the race for the future will never be won by going backward or standing still. Winning means we must change our strategy in a manner that will prioritize the mobilization of maximum capacity to fight terrorism, while ensuring the safety and protection of local communities in the frontline of the fight against terrorism.
“We are also improving cooperation and coordination with our neighbours and other international partners to add depth and muscle to our overall strategy.
“In our efforts at combating the activities of Boko Haram, the new government has sought and obtained the support of not only our neighbours, other international friends and partners. Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the groups of unproven allegations of human rights violations leveled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war against the insurgents. In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so called human rights violations not been an obstacle.
“Unwillingly, and I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy law amendment by the US government has aided and abated the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes. I believe this is not the spirit of the Leahy laws. I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes”.
Meanwhile President Buhari reportedly has been approached by a faction of the deadly Boko Haram sect, seeking peace negotiations with Nigeria’s government.
The Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a statement said that efforts were under way to “verify their claims” of having such power.
“A faction of the Boko Haram group came forward claiming to have the mandate to negotiate with the government,” he said.
Recall that President Buhari recently said that his administration will negotiate with Boko Haram if that will lead to the freedom of the over 270 Chibok school girls who were kidnapped from their school dormitory more than 450 days age corralled into trucks and driven to nowhere by terrorists. Buhary who made this plan known on CNN, however, said his government will only negotiate with a trusted faction of the insurgent group and one with a face.
The President also said he will do every-thing within his powers as commander-in-Chief to bring the terrorist sect to heal.
However, in an effort to find a lasting solution to Boko Haram insurgents, Buhari met with President Paul Biya of Cameroon to ratify an agreement that will allow their Military forces to pursue Boko Haram Militants across their borders.
President Buhari who arrived in Cameroon on Wednesday on a two-day visit had already ratified such agreement with the Niger Republic and Chadian leaders during his visit to these countries in June.
Relations between Nigeria and Cameroon have been strained for years and even got worse since Nigeria lost the Bakassi to its eastern neighbour in a land mark judgement by the International Court of Justice.
Senior special Assistant to the President on Media Garba Shehu told the BBC ahead of Buhari’s visit that “Boko Haram is in disarray and it is doubtful they have any central command.”
All the countries agreed this operation will not recognize, international boundaries wherever terrorists are they will be chased to these locations and they will be fought until they are finished,” Shehu said.
In the past Nigeria and Cameroon had blamed each other over refusal to grant their forces the right to pursue the Boko Haram Militants across the borders.
About 8,700 all sanctioned multinational troops are almost in place in Ndjamena, the Chadian capital waiting to be deployed in the fight against Boko Haram.
Penultimate Tuesday, Cameroon announced its plan to deploy an extra 2,000 troops along the border with Nigeria after the insurgents had killed nearly 60 people in multiple attacks. The regional tax force was due to start operations at the end of this month but has been delayed by questions over funding.
The Nigerian presidency said the talks would focus on the activation and deployment of this force.
President Buhari also promised he would make Nigerian embassies more efficient and improve the country’s relations with other nations.
He called on all Nigerians in Diaspora to be law abiding in their host countries.
He told the representatives of over four million Nigerians living in Cameroon to continue to live in peace and harmony with Cameroonians.
On the plight of about 40,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon forced to flee their homes because of the Boko Haram insurgency, Buhari said his government would ensure their safe return and rehabilitation in the shortest possible time.
He said: “We also have about 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (DPS) in Nigeria and we have a programme of rehabilitation and reintegration into the society for them which involves providing shelter and schools to the displaced persons.”
He said his government would revisit the issue of the voting rights for Nigerians in Diaspora which he noted, would require a legislation of the National Assembly.
Later in a prepared text read to the Nigeria community in Cameroon, Buhari said he would do everything possible to bring positive change to Nigeria.
“Despite the numerous challenges confronting us, the future of our country is bright. You all know very well that your fellow Nigerians are resilient, hardworking and patriotic. These qualities have always seen us through our most difficult national challenges and they will do so now,” he said.
The President assured that his administration would explore all reasonable options to eliminate the Boko Haram insurgency from Nigeria.
“We shall explore all reasonable options to enable us to bring this rebellion to an end.”
Buhari said noting that the current security challenges were surmountable. He said Nigeria was working with all her neigbours to fight and stand firmly against all forms of terror and trans border crimes.
The president appealed for patience and Vigilance from Nigerians to ensure that youths are not lured into joining misguided groups.
“We are determined to end this callousness against our innocent citizens. The defence of the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the protection of lives and properties of Nigerians and all those who live in the country are our top priorities.”
The President on Friday said that with the formation of a stronger regional Military Coalition, Nigeria and neighbouring countries now have an increased capacity to deal effectively with Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.
Speaking at an audience with Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations Secretary-General’s special Representative and Head of the United office for West Africa, Buhari reaffirmed his belief that the full activation and deployment of the Multi National Joint Task Force established under the auspices of the Lake Chad Basin Commission will lead to the speedy defeat and elimination of Boko Haram.
Buhari added that with the command and control centre of the Nigerian Military now in Maiduguri, Borno State, the morale of troops in the front-line states had improved significantly.
“You can tell the Secretary-General that we are doing our best and our best will be good enough for the nation and the sub-region,” Buhari told Ibn Chambers.
Ibn Chambas commended Buhari for his strong and positive actions against terrorism.
The United Nations envoy also welcomed President Buhari’s successful visit to cameroon and his reaffirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to the peaceful resolution of all border issues with Cameroon.
Donors redeem N23bn pledge to Boko Haram support fund.
The Presidential Committee of the Boko Haram victims support Fund headed by Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma disclosed that donors have now redeemed about N23 billion of their pledges.
The president subsequently directed the Head of service of the Federation, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, to facilitate the immediate release of the N5 billion pledged by the Federal Government since August 2014 for the Fund.
A statement by the special Adviser on Media and Publicity Mr. Femi Adesina said the President gave the directive after receiving a briefing from the VSF presidential villa.
Danjuma had told the President that out of the N55.92 billion pledged at the fund-raising dinner for the fund in August last year, N33,54 billion was still outstanding including N5 billion from the Federal Government.
Danjuma had urged the President to use his office to persuade all organisations and individuals to honour their pledges to the committee.
Buhari also urged the committee to ensure proper coordination with other government agencies providing support and assistance to victims of terrorism.
The President assured Danjuma and members of the VSF Committee that his administration was taking proactive steps to defeat terrorism in the country.
He stated that despite the challenge of acquiring much needed strategic equipment and weapons to confront the terrorists, the Nigerian Military has recently terrorists, the Nigerian Military has recently gained much ground in its effort to defeat and degrade Boko Haram.
Buhari added that the full deployment of the Multi-National Joint Tax Force (MNJTF), under the auspices of member-states of Lake Chad Basin Commission, would further boost ongoing Military operations against the terrorists.