With peace and stability gradually returning to the North-east, a former Chief of Staff, Nigerian Army Infantry Corps Centre, Brig.-Gen. Saleh Bala has recommended renewed cooperation among states in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin to end the reigns of Boko Haram and its rival faction, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Bala, currently President, White Ink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER), also emphasised the need to approach governance of the Sahel-Lake Chad region comprehensively and decisively with focus on the implementation policies and strategies to address the problems of the region.
He made these recommendations at a briefing to the Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) Ambassador Mamman Nuhu held at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Abuja Office, on Wednesday.
At the briefing, the retired general pointed out that the insecurity around the Lake Chad Basin “is defined by poor governance and exacerbated by the consequence of climate change and environmental degradation, over population and its pressures on land and resources, lack of social justice, over-population and young bulge and disparate foreign interests.”
He explained that all these challenges “have met the regions history of low or absence of government footprint and influence, which has sustained adverse historical characteristics of smuggling and illicit trade and the various types of banditry, criminality and recently terrorist insurgencies.”
He acknowledged the presiding dispensation of governance of the region from the contemporary circumstance of the individual states that form the LCBC; complex matrix of bilateral and multilateral relations as well as interdependencies at regional and international organizations levels to address the envisaged Boko Haram-ISWAP post-insurgency environment.
He, therefore, argued that the governance ecosystem of the Lake Chad Basin could not be justifiably divorced from the larger and overarching Sahel macrocosmic to which the Lake Chad Basin is an important microcosm.
He said: “If the Sahel stretches from the coast of Mauritania to the belt separating the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, if it is important to remember also that the Lake Chad is geographically situated at the midpoint of the belt, then any effort to study and govern measures to development and even the debatable first need of the region, being security, cannot be achieved without taking cognizance of the nature of peace and stability.”
The retired army chief, also, explained the influence of geography in the complex character of climate, relief and environment, population, demographics and ethnic and linguistic configurations, economics (from ancient of trans-Saharan trade), defense and security and more.
In this context, Bala suggested that kinetic military operations should take the forefront for now while a workable development framework should be tailored at addressing the festering problem of the receding Lake Chad.
He added that the development framework should also be engineered to tackle desert encroachment, over-grazing, over-fishing and over-cultivation of the land and water resources, and lack of modern energy infrastructure, educational, health other social infrastructure in the region.
The retired general, specifically, observed that the recharging of or dredging of the Lake Chad and rationalisation of specific dams built on tributaries that recharge the Lake, should be the pre-eminent effort.
According to him, this is because, as long as the resources of the Lake continue to deplete, the competition over it will continue to sustain and even exacerbate the violent contestations and even migrations from the region.
He, therefore, challenged the governments in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin “to the importance of the relation of peace to the development of the region through strong and qualitative governance.
“Also, the states’ diplomatic, defense and security institutions must work assiduously to match the challenges interests of the various foreign interests in the region,” Bala suggested with confidence that approaching governance proactively in the region would further bring about stable order.
The retired general, therefore, recommended the establishment of a Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, which according to him, required all member-states in the regions to institutionalise their cooperation and integration.
He suggested that all the states of the Sahel, beginning with the LCBC states might need to establish specific ministries with a Sahel and LCBC specific brief, in the context of a regional cooperation and integration.
He urged the states to strengthen the regional structure through their individual legislative mechanisms, laws similar to those of the EU, where laws and regulations over international aid, defense and security, economic affairs and development for the macro and micro regions would be coordinated.
The retired general, also, challenged the states “to rise to the importance of institutions on effective governance systems and their pre-eminence over the dependence on individual political champions and regime.
“This is because of the impermanence of political leaders either through electoral transition or ‘divine interventions’, as well similarly for regime transitions.
“Building, respecting, submission and sustaining strong institutions led by professional public servants under democratic political direction and control has no alternative in the promotion, delivery and sustenance of human security goods and services in sustainable people-oriented manners.
“It is therefore necessary that the current varied territorial and human security and development challenges in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin are governed on a specific and specialized purpose-established institutional mechanism,” Bala recommended with assurance for a more stable regional order.