Nigeria needs more than military tactics to combat insurgency – Osinbajo

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By Faith Yahaya, Abuja

Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said Nigeria requires more than military approach to combat the insurgency in the northeast.

Osinbajo also noted that violent extremism currently prevalent in the Sahel region was threatening the relative peace in Nigeria and Africa.

The VP however noted that the military can win the war but must work with others stakeholders to ensure total victory.

He made this known in Abuja at a conference with the theme ‘insurgency and counter insurgency in Nigeria: Perspectives on Boko Haram’ organized by Victim Support Fund in collaboration with Nigeria Defense Academy (NDA).

The Vice President who was represented by the National Security Adviser, Babagana Munguno while lamenting the impact of the insurgency said: “The insurgency has lasted over a decade. It has created one of the most humanitarian crisis. While we continue in building capacities of our armed forces and intelligence services, we recognize that insurgency is a complex trend which cannot be fought solely by kinetic measures.

“This administration is undertaking a pivot that shapes the orientation of our institutions from the traditional conception of rejigging security to that of human security as a core principle of our national security management.

“This means that the wellbeing of the people in all ramifications now shapes our understanding of national security. This approach is designed to give new life to the dictates of our constitution which states that the security and welfare of the Nigerian people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

Osinbajo also said the Nigerian military officials deployed to the northeast have to understand and be sensitive to the needs of those residents there.

He said: “In the theatre, this comprehensive approach calls for the harmonization of combat imperatives with those of humanitarian operation, the conduct of military security and law enforcement institutions must exacerbate sensitivity to the peculiarities of the local environment.

“The strength of our military must be blended with the resilience of local communities in an era which warfare is easily waged by non-state actors that hide within the civilian populations, civil military relations has emerged as a strategic point. In recognition of this, the Nigerian army has established a directorate of civil military relations to build trust with conflict affected communities.

“Our armed forces are fully capable of delivering military victory; however, an insurgency of this scale which violently questions the legitimacy of the nation itself requires victories in other spheres that can only be won by non-military means.

“For instance, we must imagine alternate scenarios of post-conflict rehabilitation, how do we address the issues of transnational …the conflict has thrown up a lot of questions. In interrogating the remote and immediate causes of the insurgency, many factors have been identified ranging from poverty, human and infrastructural deficits in the conflict affected states and the impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods in the lake chad region to social injustice and declining competence of the state in delivering developmental goods and preponderance of ungoverned spaces within which hostile non-state actors roam freely and foment trouble.”

On the threat of violent extremism, he said: “The footprint of violent extremism is spreading in the Sahel and it is posing profound challenges to all of us as well as definitions of nations in the region and threatening to unravel social covenants that bind states and citizenries.

“Nigeria must continue to enhance its sovereign immunity to the plague of extremism; she must take the lead in resisting the tide of terror on the continent. We have done more to deliver the tangible governance outcomes that will engender hope among our people and address the pervasive alienation that drives young people into the plunges of extremist and mad people.

“We recognize that the fight against insurgency is fundamentally a clash of ideologies. On one hand, we represent the ideals of inclusion, mutuality, and progress and we are against agents of violence, exclusion and intolerance. In this context, it is clear that reclaiming hearts and minds is as important as reclaiming territory.

“We also recognize that since our quest is the establishment of a society in which social justice, human dignity and freedom of religion and conscience amongst other constitutional ideals are upheld, the weapons of our warfare cannot only be martial, our focus should also be conscience, intellect, moral and socio-cultural imagination. All weapons with which we are richly resourced must now be brought to bear upon the situation to win a truly sustainable peace.”

Also speaking, the Governor of Borno, Babagana Zulum said there is need for the military and the civilian to work together to ensure total victory in the insurgency that has lasted for over a decade.

Zulum also said the major problem confronting the people of northeast is lack of access to their farmlands.

He blamed the Nigerian military for the continued displacement of the people in the northeast.

“For us to stop the insurgency there is need to explore political solutions to finding lasting solutions. Agriculture is key but one of the major problems we are witnessing in the northeast region is access to our farmlands. People don’t have access to their farmlands. 70 percent of our lands are not under cultivation, hitherto they have been captured.

“Displacement of communities is also another issue and I must say that the issue of displacement is one of our major problems. The military are trying their best but they are also responsible for most of the displacement that is reoccurring in our region. People are displaced and they don’t have access to their agricultural land, access to aquaculture farming, access to livestock farming is not possible and how can they deal with the insurgency with this ongoing?

“If we want to end this insurgency, Nigerian military must give opportunity for the communities to go back to their lands. Go to Monguno, we have about 300,000 displaced people in Monguno who don’t have access to education, their farmlands, they are caged. How can we move forward? We have to take our destinies into our hands to develop our nation.

“Displacement is one of our major problems we have so many villages now in and around Borno states, the more people are displaced, the more the crisis will continue because that is the strategy of the insurgents. They will reoccupy the place; plant IEDs to ensure that no activity goes on there.

“We must ensure that military operations are established in recovered areas after they are liberated from the insurgents. Stabilization mechanism is key also. When we liberate the areas, we must not withdraw because when we withdraw, we give room for them to come back to and recapture the places.”

He also said the approach of digging trenches around the villages and towns should be abandoned for something more sustainable.

“The so- called digging of trenches around villages and cities is no more sustainable. We keep on digging trenches around the major towns and cities around our localities to protect it but it is not the solution.

“The solution is that the Nigerian military, the Nigerian government including the state, local and federal should create enabling environment for people to go back to their lands and do their normal jobs. It is the only solution.

On his part, the keynote speaker, Gen. Martin Agwai (Rtd) recommended that personnel deployed to the theatre of war be rotated after two years for fatigue not to set in.

He said: “If you have taken somebody to a theatre and you know the challenges which includes lack of proper sleep because when the enemy is coming, he does not tell you as an alarm bell that he is coming or this is the way he is coming, if you have kept somebody on his toes for a long period, two years to me is the maximum for you to relief him.

“After that, the person will stale and inefficiency will set in. He will start thinking about his family and other things but if after two years, you move him and he is with his family and you retrain, then after another two years, you can send them back but if you don’t rotate, the animal in the human being will come out.”