Endless Tears in Chibok Amid UN’s Frank Report

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true

Phone 08054699539

Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

When Boko Haram struck in Chibok, Borno State, nine days ago, four people were killed, 22 women/two men abducted and 110 buildings razed. Yes, 110 buildings were razed in Kawtakare, Korohuma and Pemi communities in Chibok, and this is according to official figures. The terrorists were able to burn such a large number of buildings because they were in the local government for almost a whole day, unhindered. They also went from house to house cherry-picking women. The most painful about this persistent attack of Chibok by terrorists is that this town is home to the Nigerian Army’s 28 Task Force Brigade. These soldiers have not hindered the terrorists.

Within just the first 29 days of this New Year, Chibok LG was attacked three times by the terrorists. On January 3, six soldiers and a civilian were killed when the guerrillas attacked a military base in Kuda, Chibok. After leaving the military base, the attackers burnt 40 houses in the village and then looted the community’s food and livestock.

Boko Haram returned to Chibok LG on January 14 and inflicted pain on residents of Kautikari village. As usual, they spent over two hours moving from house to house in the community. Three people were killed and scores of buildings razed.
Some of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 at a boarding secondary school in Chibok are yet to be found. Over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped back then. Notwithstanding, attacks, killings and abduction have continued in this town for seven years. For how long shall these people continue to bury their loved ones? The hapless people of Chibok have obviously given up on the Nigerian state that persistently fails to protect them.

Last Monday, Governor Babagana Zulum was in Chibok to shed tears. He also interfaced with heads of security agencies and discussed breaches and ways to improve security in Chibok communities. This is the same Zulum that earlier refused to list Chibok LG as one of the unsafe areas in the state. This time around, Zulum was a bit honest to admit that four local government areas – Biu, Askira, Chibok and Damboa – were faced with serial attacks from Boko Haram and ISWAP. It is not enough for Zulum to shed tears. The Borno Governor should put pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to clear the terrorists in the state. He should confront the President with the truth; that 20 of the 27 local governments in the state are not safe.

Those genuinely interested in decapitating Boko Haram and ISWAP persistently contend that the Nigerian Army is doing its best in this war, but this best is not enough to end terrorism. This is the truth Zulum must key into and put pressure on the federal government to do the needful. The truth is that Nigeria must seek help from developed countries. We need foreign military contractors to end this war against Boko Haram and ISWAP. Technology, modern equipment and quality manpower are required in modern warfare. Our gallant military lacks these.

The developed world now fights enemies with drones and pin-point missiles. It is still not happening in Nigeria. The United States did not step into Libyan soil to fire the missile that destroyed Muammar Gaddafi. A U.S. predator-drone operated from a base near Las Vegas fired the first missiles at fleeing Gaddafi’s convoy, hitting its target about three kilometres west of Sirte. This is the modern warfare I’m talking about. Nigeria must hire foreign military contractors, who will come with their equipment and manpower to decapitate Boko Haram.

The alternative is to approach leaders of the United States and its European allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to help clear terrorists in Nigeria as they did in the middle-east, decapitating al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who delivered a special address (virtually) at the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, made an appeal that was close to this suggestion of mine.

Osinbajo declared: “It is imperative for the international community to make more robust interventions to clear terrorists from Africa just as it did in the Middle East and other parts of the world. The United Nations Security Council must find unanimity in working with and assisting African countries to eradicate the menace of terrorism in the continent once and for all.”

The Buhari government should go beyond Osinbajo’s appeal on behalf of the entire African continent. If this government is genuinely interested in ending terrorism, it should directly approach the US and its NATO allies, to help clear the terrorists in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government must end its pretenses of having decapitated Boko Haram and ISWAP, and face the terror challenges squarely. It was good that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria punched a big hole in the charades last week. The Head of the office, Martin Griffiths, professed that Boko Haram, and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province, “are still very, very dangerous and very threatening.”

Griffiths thereafter urged the world not to take attention away from the insurgency-ravaged North-east Nigeria, noting that the region needs not less than $1billion in aid this year. According to him, “the funds are needed to provide food and health care for the millions of people displaced and to those who remain in their homes but are vulnerable to attacks.”

The UN official also told the world not to forget the continuing devastation being caused by the terrorists that had killed several thousands of residents and displaced millions: “This is a very different kind of operation and very difficult also to deter … a grave, clear and present danger, obviously, to the people and a priority for the government. The world needs to remember this is a tragedy that needs to be sorted out.”

Griffiths is indeed a friend of Nigeria. His intervention, done in good faith, is highly commendable. I hope the Buhari government will digest his blunt assessment of the strength of the terrorists in the North-east and act appropriately. Boko Haram and ISWAP are still, daily, sending scores of Nigerians to early graves.

I just ran into some statistics showing that in the first 11 months of 2020 alone, there were a total of 142 attacks by Boko Haram or ISWAP in the three North Eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, making an average of 13 incidents a month.

Of these 142 events, 17 ended with no fatalities while at least 1,606 people were killed in the 125 fatal incidents. This bloodshed must end.

Let’s Hold Customs Liable for Smuggling

Last Tuesday, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan challenged heads of security agencies to end smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries. While meeting with them, Lawan declared that smuggling of the products must be eliminated to reduce the cost of subsidy paid by the Nigerian government. But Lawan did not narrow down to the failings of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the body specifically charged with policing our borders and preventing smuggling. If the 30,000-men NCS can’t get the job of policing borders done, then, they have no business remaining there. The leadership of the NCS must be held accountable.

The truth Lawan is running away from is that men of the NCS aid and abet the smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries. They also aid and abet smuggling of rice, vehicles and so many other goods into Nigeria. These NCS men dine and wine with smugglers. Those who visit the borders regularly understand what I’m talking about. Until this government is ready to face this fact and act appropriately, smuggling in and out of Nigeria will persist.

Honestly, I can’t understand why the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali is still in office. He was at the meeting with Lawan and came up with weird reasons for the failure of this agency. Ali wants Nigerians to believe that the NCS “has been doing a lot in trying to ensure that the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria is minimised.” The man charged with leading the policing of Nigeria’s borders came to the conference complaining about porous borders and lack of modern equipment.

Nigeria has thousands of Customs men manning its boundaries. They persistently fail to stop smuggling; yet, these border defenders are still keeping their jobs. It means the leadership of this country has failed. The NCS as presently constituted cannot stop smuggling. If the federal government is keen about limiting smuggling, the NCS must be massively overhauled. Ali is the first person that should go. A fresh Comptroller General to overhaul the NCS should then be appointed. This is the only way forward.

Memo to Akeredolu on Cannabis

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State is the frontrunner in the campaign for the legalisation of Cannabis Sativa (Marijuana) or Indian Hemp in Nigeria. He has been going about this with so much passion. For Akeredolu, Nigeria stands to benefit a lot from this banned psychotropic drug, particularly in the area of medicine. The Ondo State governor says Cannabis can be a strong foreign exchange earner for Nigeria.

The governor argues: “We must find a way to legalise the cultivation of Cannabis for medicinal purposes. There is nothing wrong about it. We are only shooting ourselves in the foot. It is a foreign exchange earner for people outside the country. People want this. We ourselves, even our pharmacies want to develop it.”

Akeredolu has even travelled to Thailand to study the cultivation of Cannabis for pharmaceutical use. He disagrees with those who argue that decriminalising Cannabis would lead to more Nigerians being sucked into drug abuse.
This governor has an ally in the House of Representatives, in the person of Miriam Onuoha. She is pushing a bill for the validation of cultivation and trading in cannabis for medical and cosmetic use, research purposes as well as revenue generation for Nigeria.

Well, my dear Akeredolu, I have with me the latest research result by scientists at the University of Montreal, Canada, showing that using Cannabis for any purpose can affect memory, concentration, and decision-making. The Canadian experts reviewed the scientific evidence surrounding the drug, and warned that the effect of Marijuana can persist well beyond the period of intoxication.

They discovered that children who smoke Marijuana perform worse at school because of its effects and that adults who use the drug could also suffer at work or impair their driving ability.

Dr. Alexandre Dumais, a psychiatrist and co-author of the study, argues that cannabis can impair “several areas of cognition” and that heavy use may worsen depression in the long term by reducing the brain’s ability to let go of bad memories. According to the researchers, Marijuana can also worsen mental health problems among people who already have them, or increase users’ risk of psychosis or schizophrenia.

The Montreal academics analysed existing Cannabis studies involving more than 43,000 people. With these facts and figures, I hope Akeredolu will reconsider his pro-Marijuana campaign. The effect is devastating, whether medicinal or recreational use.

The Ondo State Governor is also dreaming about earning forex from Cannabis instead of forex from the good old cocoa, coffee, palm oil and other export produce his state was known for during the Western Region era. If there is so much USD in Cannabis, then, Thailand that legally grows and exports it for medicinal purposes will be a prosperous country today. Thailand remains a third world country.