Ending the ruins of the North-East
Irked by a seeming grim future in their geopolitical zone, governors from the North-East have decided to collaborate in the bid to save the area from worsening humanitarian crisis occasioned by insurgency and leadership insensitivity over the years. KUNLE ODEREMI examines their latest initiative meant to restore hope in the beleaguered people of the zone
MAJOR indices for economic growth and development are seriously under threat in states making up the Northeastern part of the country. Reputable local and international orgnisations with developmental agenda and human capacity building attest to the frightening pervasive uncertainty, in the zone, particularly in the last 10 years. Insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, abduction and other heinous crimes have created an unprecedented monumental humanitarian crisis in the zone. The area is now said to require billions of naira to rehabilitate infrastructure and bring succour to a huge number of out-of-school children, displaced persons, widows and widowers, as well as orphans. Insurgents have killed several aid workers after abducting them in the course of duty. According to UNICEF, the humanitarian crisis in the North-East affects 7.7 million women, men and children who are all in a dire strait. In particular, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states groan under a huge burden occasioned by the murderous activities of insurgents and other criminals. Reports also suggest that the conflict in the Lake Chad Basin alone has displaced around 2.2 million people, with 1.6 million of the victims in Nigeria’s northeast alone. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are said to be taking refuge in the Republic of Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Foreign interventions in form of aids for the victims of insurgency in the North-East seem like a drop of water in the ocean. The enormity of the challenges was brought to the fore by Nigeria’s Minister for Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, at a two-day conference on the Lake Chad Basin, organised by Norway jointly with Nigeria and Germany, and in close collaboration with the United Nations: “The need for all of us to work together to assist the governments of the region salvage the situation cannot be over emphasised. The Government of Nigeria and the rest of the International community need to pull resources to assuage the situation, to bring to an end this humanitarian crisis,” she said.
Ahmed explained that in recent years, violent conflicts and human suffering had degraded infrastructure and created serious humanitarian challenges. According to her, the 2017 multi-party Humanitarian Response Plan designed to address in the Lake Chad Basin was under threat because of lack of fund. Her words: “The total amount required to fund the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is $1.054 billion. Currently, less than 10 per cent of the plan has been funded, thus highlighting the need for rigorous fund-raising in order to meet targets.” She added that the Joint Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria 2017 Partners needed to work to alleviate the most life-threatening needs of 6.9 million people located in the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (the BAY states) of North-East Nigeria,” because an estimated 8.5 million population in that area in need.
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Most of the problem confronting the zone even go beyond a decade, as some researchers tend to blame the insecurity in the zone on poverty, poor socioeconomic development, unemployment, insensitivity of the elite. It is part of their submissions that the security challenges had been exacerbated by poor funding, lack of basic equipment, poor welfare package and lack of training of the security personnel, by the government whose duty is ensure the safety of lives and property. And the international community had not only expressed concern over the challenges of the North-East; part of the response to the crisis from the international community was the US$10.5 million in life-saving support from the UN Humanitarian Air Service. The allocation was deployed to fund 15 projects supporting humanitarian rapid response to the most vulnerable. According to Mr Edward Kallon, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, the funds was meant to provide “safe drinking water, emergency shelter and health services to those in need.”
The Nigeria Humanitarian Fund (NHF), one of 18 country-based pooled funds, was launched during the Oslo, Norway conference, received more than $25 million in contributions and pledges, from Sweden, Germany, Norway, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Arab Gulf Programme for Development, Azerbaijan, Malta and Sri Lanka.
Issue of destiny
With the crisis in the region remaining seemingly intractable, governors of the North-East have decided to collaborate towards complementing the efforts of the Federal Government and the international community. They have resolved to pool their resources together to save the region from a bleak future. The governor of Gombe State, Inuwa Yahaya, who hosted an ‘unusual regional’ meeting of the governors in the zone recently, said it was time he and his colleagues took the collective destiny of the zone in their hands. The states included Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe. Authorities of relevant government agencies, including the Northeast Development Commission (NEDCO) attended the meeting to provide useful information on the situation on ground measures to safe the region. A 14-point communique issued by the governors emphasized the imperative of proactive actions that should be collectively initiated by the governors to bring back sanity to the geopolitical zone. These include the need for them to synergy in the pursuit of the aims and objectives of the formation of the Northeast Development Commission by the Federal Government. so, part of the communique read: “The forum is committed to providing all the necessary support to the commission with a view to achieving its objectives; the forum directed all the Attorney Generals of the North-East states to meet with the security agents and possibility of enhancing security in the sub region within the ambits of the law; the forum demands that all projects that have to be implemented by the NEDC will be delivered in a demand-driven approach that takes into consideration our needs and priorities; the Forum agreed that local content development is key to our success and we are committed to supporting local content initiatives with all development programmes.” While resolving to establish a technical working committee to implement all the actions agreed upon, the governors also agreed to meet quarterly to address common issues of interest to the zone.
Prior to the March 5, 2020 meeting of the North-East governors, the enlarged platform of Northern Governors Forum had championed the various interventions and engagements in the entire North. Though those effort assisted in ameliorating the negative effects of the insurgency, the worst-hit states had more often had to bear their own cross by initiating proactive measures, including providing logistics support for the troops combating terrorism and insurgency, as well as even exploringthe option of spiritual intervention. In fact, a former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon keyed into the spiritual war against the insurgency when he led a prayer rally against all forms killings and Boko Haram attacks in the North-East and the entire country.
The common parlance is that security is everybody’s business, but those elected into public offices bear the greater burden of guaranteeing the security of lives and property. Now, that the governors appreciated the pursuit of that goal can be fast achieved through mutual cooperation, understanding and collaboration, they may need to think out of the box and lean on the views canvassed by two dons: Iro Aghedo of the Department of Political Science, University of Benin, and Oarhe Osumah of the Department of Public Administration, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State in their work entitled: Bread, not bullets: Boko Haram and insecurity management in northern Nigeria, suggested: “In the context of the prevailing socioeconomic problems and inequities in northern Nigeria, including rampant poverty and mass illiteracy, this study suggests that economic empowerment (bread) is a more effective strategy than is brutal force (bullets) for insecurity management in the region.” They noted that the crass insensitivity to the plight, “genuine needs and aspirations of the vast majority of people” created widespread insecurity and consequent demands for reform. “Thus, both short-term and long-term measures are needed to meet the security challenge posed by insurgency,” the dons stated. In effect, their suggestion is that the Peace building efforts of the governors must be comprehensive, multidimensional and people-based so as to inspire public confidence and believability.
Their counterpart in Bayelsa State, Governor Douye Diri, admitted that the severe security situation in the North-East was having serious consequences for the entire country in terms of both human and physical capital assets. This, he explained, is because of the interdependence of the units making up the federation. “When one state is sick, it affects the rest of the country. Today, there is Boko Haram in the North-East, specifically in Borno State but it is affecting everybody in the country,” He stated.
With the North-East governors realising the necessity for collaboration in the fight against terrorism and other heinous crimes that have also paralysed their domain, perhaps the postulation by Gowon and other well-meaning groups and individuals for divine intercession, will fast-track the process of restoring peace and stability in the zone. However, the catalyst for the envisaged positive change in the North-East rests with time.