Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
President Muhammadu Buhari has said the ongoing crisis in the North-east demands unprecedented collaboration between the military and the humanitarian actors.
He said this will remove fiction between the military and humanitarian actors and will subsequently bring succour to the people of the sub-region.
The president, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd.), at the opening ceremony of a three-day workshop on Civil-Security Summit, organised by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in Maiduguri on Wednesday, however lamented that: “The relationship between humanitarian and security actors responding to the humanitarian crisis is always fraught with mistrust in many theatres of conflict globally.
“In the North-east of Nigeria, the tension between the CSOs and the security apparatus deteriorated into a full-blown impasse this year, which ultimately resulted in the suspension of activities of some NGOs by Operation Lafiya Dole Theater Command. These challenges have had an adverse effect on humanitarian response.
“Following series of mediation efforts and high-level interactions between the federal government, leaders of the humanitarian community and the UN system, it was agreed that there was an urgent need to develop a Civil Security Cooperation (CISEC) framework for humanitarian interventions in the North-east.”
According to him, “Hence, our gathering here today is to strategise and stress the importance of fostering a better relationship between the military, para-military and the other humanitarian actors in the face of the crisis in the North East.
“It is my expectation that this workshop will lay the critical foundation to foster better relations between the civil security organizations (CSOs) and the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies with the sole objective targeted at ensuring better collaboration, cooperation and coherence in their activities in the North-east.
“I should remind us that with the proliferation of complex security issues in conflict zones, civil society and security agencies need to work together on an unprecedented level as these problems cannot be easily solved by either side. The security issues I refer to are not just the traditional warfare and conflict, but also non-traditional security issues like humanitarian emergencies, pollution, starvation, diseases, international terrorism and organised crime. More often than not, the aftermath of some of these non-traditional security issues will involve post-conflict reconstruction and economic rejuvenation.
“This requires increasingly diverse ancillary tasks for both military and civilian organizations, which necessitates collaboration. The complicated objectives of these activities require an integrated and coordinated response from a multitude of civilian and military actors. Hence, the imperative actively debate and shape their aims and policies into a single, coherent strategy that encompasses both strategic and tactical aims now.
“Therefore, the importance of this event cannot be overemphasized. The presentations you will be hearing will aim to promote knowledge, understanding and implementation of a civil – security agencies coordination in the theatre of conflict.”
Reading the opening address, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, said: “It is apparent that where civil-security relations are poorly managed, humanitarian action may inadvertently compound other security problems.
“It has become obvious that it is increasingly more difficult for humanitarian organisations to operate independently in humanitarian environments. The presence of security operatives in many of the crisis ridden areas make those communities safe and accessible for humanitarian actors to carry out their activities.
“Therefore, the need to ensure cordial, and constructive relations between civil and security actors cannot be over emphasized.”
She however said the differences in the guiding principles and rules of engagements of the military, security agencies and the international and local NGOs have been the bane of productive co-existence in the North-east.
She admitted that: “These differences often lead to an adversarial relationship fraught with mistrust and misperception. These misunderstandings led to the banning of two (2) INGOs by the military in August 2019. As we are aware the ban has been temporarily lifted.”
In his remarks, the Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara, said he was optimistic that with all the stakeholders brought on board, the outcome of this summit “will be wonderful and a great leap forward in his our quest for lasting peace and stability in the sub-region”.
He said: “I urge all of you to understand that the task of ensuring lasting peace lies not in addressing military and humanitarian concerns but fundamentally forging a close relationship in the onerous tasks of state building, security sector reform, civil capacity building and promoting social reintegration.
“We cannot at this stage afford working separately in an uncoordinated manner that undermines one another with implications for bringing about a lasting peace in our sub-region.”
Earlier, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Mr. Edward Kallon, had said there was an urgent need to improve military/humanitarian agencies’ relationship in the ongoing war against insurgency in the North-east and zero allowance for fictions.
Kallon, while lamenting that in the last 18 months aid workers have become increasing target of Boko Haram, said: “This crisis deserves our sustained attention and renewed commitment.”
He said: “Having reached its 10th year, the protracted crisis in the North-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe remains the largest humanitarian crisis, with over 7 million people still in need of humanitarian assistance. This crisis deserves our sustained attention and renewed commitment.
“Over the past ten years, over 35,000 people have lost their lives in this crisis. About 14,000 were civilians, but many others were members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.”