Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The United Nations has said that the security challenges in West Africa and the Sahel, occasioned by violent attacks by terrorist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African West African Province (ISWAP) are made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the UN, the rising spate of attacks since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out early this year, was an indication that the disease has had no negative effect on activities of the terrorists in Nigeria and other countries in West Africa and the Sahel.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, made the assertion at the National Institute for Security Studies (NISS), a research and development arm of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Chambas, who delivered the Graduation Lecture for Participants of the Executive Intelligence Management Course (EIMC13) tagged, “COVID-19: Myths, Really and Challenges to Economic Development and Security”, maintained that, apart from security, the deadly virus had also impacted negatively on the socio-economic development of the region. He, therefore, called for a multi-government and multi-stakeholders’ approach to mitigating the far-reaching effects of the viral disease.
Participants of the EIMC 13 were drawn from military, security, para-military and law enforcement agencies in the country, the Gambia and Ghana, not below the deputy directorate cadre.
“It is not lost on lost on anyone’s mind that violent extremism perpetrated by non-state armed groups in parts of West Africa and the Sahel, is the current most pressing security dilemma in the region”, Chambas said.
He submitted further, that the attacks by Boko Haram and the ISWAP within the Lake Chad general area, as well as the Sahel in the month of March, had resulted in significant losses in the ranks of defence and security forces of Nigeria, Chad and Niger
He said this was “indicative of the fact that the pandemic is yet to have a deterrent effect on their (terrorists’) activities.
“The overall security situation in the region grew in complexity due to exacerbation of conflicts by the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected national response capacity to insecurity and further radicalised the narrative of extremist groups, who blamed governments for the impact of the health crisis on populations.
“On 9 March, at the onset of the virus in the region, Islamic State encouraged its fighters to increase attacks while governments are struggling to manage the pandemic.
“Additionally, militants’ have attempted to win over local populations by portaying the pandemic as punishment against non-believers going further to provide their version of psycho-social support to populations of cuttting areas where they control in Lake Chad Basin and the tri-border areas of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
“The terrorist groups in West Africa and the Sahel failed or refused to adhere to the appeal of the Secretary-General for a global cessation of hostiliries, or ceasefire due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his address the Director General of the State Services (DG-SS), Mr. Yusuf Bichi, said the intelligence and security sector, like others, were gravely impacted by the novel coronavirus disease.
He, nonetheless, noted that the secret service would not waiver in its mandate of detecting and preventing crimes against the state.