The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, on Monday adduced reasons why the Nigerian government and military have not been able to win the decade-long war against Boko Haram.
Mr Zulum spoke while hosting a visiting delegation from the Senate on a sympathy visit to the state over the recent attacks in Borno state.
PREMIUM TIMES had last week reported how gunmen believed to be members of ISWAP, a breakaway faction of Boko Haram, attacked some villages and killed about 120 civilians. The insurgents had also rustled over 1200 cows from the attacked communities.
The delegation, led by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, and the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu, visited Maiduguri to commiserate with the state over the killings.
Lack of numerical strength
The governor also told the visiting lawmakers , including the immediate governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, that the soldiers fighting the war are inadequate.
“Another huge setback is the issue of the numerical strength of the Nigerian military. The numerical force of the troops in the theatre is lean,” he said.
“Most importantly, we want a situation whereby our gallant civilian-JTF to be massively recruited into the Nigerian military and other paramilitary to end the insurgency.
“Recruiting them is very critical because the essential thing is to gain commitment. We have a vast army of committed members of the vigilante and the civilian-JTF to end the insecurity and bring peace and stability to their fatherland.”
The governor called on the Senate to look into the issue of funding and examine the existing gaps as a strategy for winning the war.
“Another critical challenge facing the ongoing counterinsurgency war is the issue of funding of the military. Under no circumstance can a battalion operate successfully with a lean operational cost,”he said.
Taking War to Insurgents
Governor Zulum said one of the ways of winning the war now is for troops to take the battle to the identified hideouts of the insurgents.
“We have many challenges, and one of them is that of the insurgents who are currently operating in the shores of Lake Chad and the Sambisa Game Reserve,” he said.
“The only solution to ending this insurgency is for troops to dislodge insurgents from their hideouts.
“Another most important thing is the collaboration between the government of Borno State and our neighbouring countries. I don’t think the government of Nigeria can succeed without the cooperation of our neighbouring countries.”
The governor said despite recent setbacks, efforts of the government have helped in “stabilising the security situation” in the Northeast zone.
Thanking the delegation for a visit, Governor Zulum, said Borno state would never forget the support and assistance it has received from the federal government towards restoring the peace in the state.
He said there was no doubt that the federal government has helped Borno out of the pre-2015 days when Boko Haram insurgents were in control of most of the local government areas of the state.
Governor Zulum said Nigeria cannot win the war against Boko Haram without the international collaboration of its three neighbouring states.
“We need the support of the Chadian administration, with the support of the Cameroonian administration and that of Nigerien is needed to end this insurgency,” he said.
He also listed the working synergy amongst the military services as key to winning the war, stressing that “lack of required synergy amongst the security agencies is a thing of concern to all of us.
“Most importantly, lack of technological war tools by the Nigerian army is a matter of grave concern to all of us.
“The military too must do all that it can to close the gaps of the existing trust deficit between it and the civil populace.”
Recent killings in Borno
Governor Zulum said the state desires better approaches to ending the insurgency, especially with the recent turn of events.
“Let me extend my sincere appreciation to the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari for stabilising the security situation in the northeast subregion,” he said.
“We also appreciate the National Assembly for all the efforts that it has been rendering towards developing the entire northeast sub-region – particularly the establishment of the Northeast development commission.
“However, the recent spontaneous attacks in Borno state is a thing of grave concern to all of us. We cannot overemphasise the nexus between insecurity and development. If there is no peace, there won’t be security and development.
The governor said the people of Borno state are facing a grave challenge due to the renewed attacks by the insurgents.
He said the biggest challenge of the residents is the “limited access to farmlands by our citizens.”
“We need to address the root causes of the insurgency which are not limited to endemic poverty, poverty and illiteracy, unemployment, environmental degradation amongst others. Right now, the majority of our citizens have limited access to their farms.
Governor Zulum said without resolving these critical matters; he doubts “if we can make any progress” in the counterinsurgency efforts.
“It is our sincere hope that the recent moves by the president will bring lasting peace to Borno state and the Northeast in general,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the senate leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, said the Senate mandated his committee to visit Borno and commiserate with the people over recent killings in the state.
The Senate Leader commended governor Zulum’s “leadership style” as well as his courageous move to restore peace in the state.
Mr Abdullahi said the Senate had upon receiving the sad news of killings in Gubio and Monguno, had directed the Senate President to meet the President of the country to discuss ways to bring the insecurity to an end.
“Yesterday, the Senate President had a meeting with President Buhari, and I am sure they discussed the issues of killing in the northeast. I am sure very soon this problem will become a thing of the past,” he said.
Other members of the delegation include former Senate Majority leader, Ali Ndume, Abubakar Kyari and two members of the House of Reps from Borno State.