Former NATO Secretary-General Calls for End to Militancy, Herdsmen Attacks

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By Senator Iroegbu and Alex Enumah in Abuja

The former Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has called on the Federal Government to take urgent and holistic measures to end Boko Haram, resurgent Niger Delta militancy and herdsmen attacks.

Rasmussen made this call in Abuja as part of the highlights of the Nigeria Summit on National Security Summit that ended on Thursday with the Theme: “Confronting and Containing Threats from Terrorism and Sectarian Insurgency”.

He said that the event, which was  organised by the Council on African Security and Development (CASADE) and Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), provided an opportunity to articulate sustainable solutions that would not only lead to immediate end to  Boko Haram terrorism, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) and Fulani herdsmen attacks.

He commended Nigeria’s exemplary and efficient use of the military to combat terrorism in the country.

He however suggested a carrot and stick approach towards dealing with the myriad of security challenges confronting the nation.

“Nigeria is an example of hard security measures necessary to tackle the bad guys. The military had improved a lot and has been successful in weakening Boko Haram even though they are yet to be completely eliminated.

“Recently, we have seen the attacks by the NDA against oil installations and as well as herdsmen attacks which must be addressed. It’s therefore necessary to strengthen the military to tackle these terrorists and more importantly, address the root causes of these security challenges,” he suggested.

Rasmussen also called for global alliance of democratic nations including Nigeria that would be aimed at collective efforts to counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency around the world.

He noted that terrorists were becoming highly inter-connected, citing the recent alliance of the Boko Haram Sect and the Islamic State (IS), which he noted, sought to displace the values of democratic nations.

The former Prime Minister of Denmark in his keynote address stressed that a winnable formula and sustainable solution had not been developed to counter extremists and global terror.

“Terrorism targets our values; to replace democracy with tyranny, rule of law with Sharia, and minority rights with oppression.

“We therefore need to create a forum where world democracies will meet to discuss how to strengthen the rule of law, good governance, combat insecurity, terrorism and check their financing. We need a worldwide pact based on freedom and security.

“We still have not developed an effective formula to fight terrorism”, he said.

Also speaking, the former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, said that beating Boko Haram at the battle field was not enough to uproot insurgency and terrorism, stressing that until the nation strove to get to the root cause, the current gains may be short lived.

Speaking on a topic: “The Surge of Insurgency and Terrorism in Recent Times- The Economic and Social Consequences”, Campbell who describe Boko Haram as ‘Evil’, noted that the failure for the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration to effectively deal with the challenge on time undermined his leadership.

“Boko Haram successes in 2014 undermined the ability of Jonathan administration to ensure the security of the Nigerian people, which is a fundamental responsibility of any President,” he said.

Campbell cited Pew’s Research that indicated that about 10 per cent of Nigerian population was either supportive or sympathetic to Boko Haram, and stressed the need for an understanding of the factors that were responsible for the growth and strength of terrorism in the country.

The former Ambassador however commended President Buhari for his crusade against corruption in the country, saying that it was crucial in addressing the state of insecurity.

“The Buhari administration has diminished Boko Haram but has not defeated it and winning the military battles against the terrorists is just the beginning of addressing the problems.

“It means that President Buhari’s fight against corruption is a fight against insecurity of the first order,” he noted.

Giving a brief history of Boko Haram which he claimed was overlooked by the US when it started in 2004, due to its non-violent posture then, the former ambassador disclosed that the economic damage of insurgency and terrorism particularly in the North East (NE) of the country was about $9billion.

According to him, “available records show that there are over two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the NE, with over three million faced with the threat of food security, and millions of children in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe faced with acute malnutrition.

He disclosed that the group which original claimed to be opposed to western civilisation today was responsible for the destruction of about 910 schools, closure of over a thousand in the North East and use of over 44 children for suicide bombings in 2015 alone.

He blamed factors such as poverty, lack of education, marginalisation, human rights violation particularly by security operatives for the spread of insurgency, adding that the high level of corruption both in the police and military greatly undermined their resolve at the battle field.

Other factors the ambassador adduced to be responsible for the phenomenal growth of insurgency in the country are religious and ethnic allegiance, political agenda of some groups, deep level of distrust between government and the governed as well as the state of hopelessness of most Nigerians.

While stating that one out of five Nigerians was inclined to support the establishment of an Islamic state and one out of every 10 was favourably disposed to Boko Haram, Campbell argued that those who were deeply frustrated, felt alienated, and had trouble finding meaning to life, would easily fall for the offers of Boko Haram.

He advised that the government to improve the climate for economic development, that would also provide equal opportunities for all, adding that the fight against corruption should be extended to the area of narcotics and drug trafficking which had support base and strong link to Boko Haram and terrorism in Libya.

He also suggested the expansion of the current de-radicalisation program as well as rebuilding education in the area.

Campbell also noted that in order to deal with the issue of distrust between government and the governed, the administration should endeavor to be transparent and uphold the rule of law, adding that there was need for security operatives to undergo various trainings that would enhance their respect for human rights when dealing with the people.

While advocating for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that would help heal wounds as well as build trust among the people particularly in the North East, the former Ambassador, stressed the need for the establishment of a North East Development Commission, to be mandated to provide a vision of the post insurgency.

He said all these were achievable if the nation could partner with the US and other countries that had overcome similar challenges.

Earlier, the Director of CASADE, Prof. John Ifediora, warned that the global community was at risk from the likes of Boko Haram.

To curb this risk, Ifediora said that a responsible and effective set of policy measures must be deployed with proper care to protect the innocent and basic human rights.

“These insurgents, in as much as their acts against humanity are despicable, have grievances that must be addressed; and the sooner the better,” he stressed.

According to him, the Summit was designed to find means to address “their grievances, and to end all forms of terroristic acts against civilised polities through humane and expedient means.

He stated that “sometimes the use of force to subdue those bent on destabilising societies was unavoidable, but first, peacefully engage and listen”.