President Muhammadu Buhari has canvassed for more vigilance and tightening of security around the borders of the six-member nations in the Lake Chad Basin.
This is just as he expressed concern over the increasing number of arms, ammunition, and other weapons from the simmering Russia and Ukraine war infiltrating the region.
Speaking Tuesday at the 16th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) held at the Conference Hall of the State House, Abuja, the president, who is Chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Government, emphasised the urgent need for expedited collaborative actions by border control agencies and other security services to stop the circulation of all illegal weapons in the region.
According to him, threat by terrorists in the region had been relatively brought under control, while the influx of weapons poses fresh challenges.
“It must however be stated that despite the successes recorded by the gallant troops of the MNJTF and the various ongoing national operations in the region, terrorist threats still lurk in the region.
“Regrettably, the situation in the Sahel and the raging war in Ukraine serve as major sources of weapons and fighters that bolster the ranks of the terrorists in the Lake Chad Region.
“A substantial proportion of the arms and ammunition procured to execute the war in Libya continues to find its way to the Lake Chad Region and other parts of the Sahel.
“Weapons being used for the war in Ukraine and Russia are equally beginning to filter to the region.
“This illegal movement of arms into the region has heightened the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which continues to threaten our collective peace and security in the region,” he said.
Buhari said the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) deserved commendation for various operations that had brought measurable stability to the Lake Chad Basin.
According to him, “the threat of Boko Haram terrorism in the Lake Chad area no doubt brought to the fore, the imperative of enhanced collaboration among the defense forces of the region in the face of a common aggressor.
“I am pleased that through the Multinational Joint Task Force we responded to the challenge, proving beyond reasonable doubt that with the requisite commitment and determination, the region can solve its challenges in the best ways possible.
“The MNJTF has indeed become a model, breaking physical barriers, and affirming the workability of the common approach to conquer challenges in the area.
“Permit me, therefore, to pay tribute to the untiring efforts of the officers and men of the Multinational Joint Task Force and our various National Armed Forces who continue to make remarkable sacrifices in the fight against terrorism in the region.
“The efforts and memories of these gallant soldiers, some of whom have paid the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty for the survival and restoration of stability to the region, will never be forgotten.”
He further reiterated that during the period under review and with the support of Heads of State, efforts and funding were sustained for the MNJTF to ensure that it delivers on its mandate of ensuring a safe and secure environment in the region.
“You will recall that consequent on the deteriorating security situation in the Region, the Extraordinary Summit of 15th December 2018, held here in Abuja, directed the conduct of continuous operations to completely eradicate the scourge of Boko Haram terrorism from the region.
“I am glad to inform my dear brothers that in keeping with that decision, the MNJTF has since then, successfully conducted three major operations: Ops‘YANCIN TAFKI (I&II) and Ops Lake Sanity I, with, the fourth one, Ops Lake Sanity II, being planned. “The next phase of the operation will take cognisance of lessons learned from previous exercises and effectively consolidate the gains attained by preceding Ops. I am glad to note that during the execution of Ops Lake Sanity I, regrouping terrorists in the Lake Chad Islands were effectively decimated,” the president added.
Buhari urged the leaders to complement the fight against terrorism with development.
According to him: “Although terrorists’ threats have been significantly decimated in the region, it is worthy of note that military actions alone cannot effectively win the war against terrorism. There is the overriding need to complement military operations with the provision of sustainable development projects that will ameliorate the living conditions of the affected people in the region.
“Government presence must be positively felt in the area to restore the confidence of citizens in the ability of the State to protect them and provide basic infrastructure for all.
“It is in view of the foregoing, that the implementation of the Regional Strategy for the Stabilisation, Recovery, and Resilience of the Boko Haram affected Areas of the region must gain further traction without any delay.
“I am glad to note the development, costing, and validation of the territorial action plans for the eight Boko Haram most affected territories of the region.
“These action plans are the basic building blocks for the implementation of the strategy for the developmental needs of the people of the area. While we commend these initiatives, we must immediately commence efforts at their operationalisation.
“In this regard, I urge our partners to continue to support us as we redouble the ongoing efforts at developing the region, to win the hearts and minds of the citizens in the area,’’ he added.
The president said the Lake Chad region was faced with a complex security situation that was highly dynamic, constantly changing, and increasingly influenced by the impact of climate change and other variables, including sadly, some external factors.
“These factors have made it imperative for us to regularly review the development and counterterrorism strategies that are operational in the region.
“We must continue together to proffer ingenious solutions to the challenges confronting us. We must, through the Commission, continue to make concerted efforts to provide the desired leadership, and ownership and ensure that our experts and troops are adequately motivated and supported to achieve our objectives.
“We must strive to continue to view our region through the lens of equity, fairness, diversity, and inclusion. It is imperative that we all see ourselves reflected in the kind of leadership we provide for the region.
“We must continue to support and contribute to the success of the organisation. We all must rise and face the challenges of the region headlong in order to deliver the bright future we envisage for our region,’’ he stated.
The president said budgetary concerns remained a challenge for all member countries, considering the declining global inflows and increasing demands, adding that, “we must, however, never lose sight of the vision of the Founding Fathers of the Commission. We must continue to strive and make collaborative efforts at upholding the ideals for which the LCBC in its nearly 60 years of existence has continued to pursue.’’
“To our gallant troops in the field, ensuring the safety and stability of the region, we recommit ourselves to sustaining the ongoing counterterrorism efforts by providing you with the requisite needs to function optimally.
“I wish to assure you that your welfare would continue to remain our priority. I urge you all to rededicate yourselves as we take the final push towards eradicating terrorism from our Region. Together, we shall restore and transform the Lake Chad Region to its former glory.
“As Chairman of the Summit of Heads of Government and State of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, I commend and thank you all for the vibrant solidarity, enhanced strong cooperation, and support we continue to share.
“I equally express sincere gratitude to our partners for the support they continue to offer us in our joint collaborative efforts to fight the challenges that have hampered the sustainable development of the region, particularly climate change and terrorism. Together, we have shown that with commitment and with the desired support, we can achieve success,’’ the president said.
Buhari urged the leaders to remain committed to ensuring that the diversity in the region continues to be a source of strength and a positive cohesive force for the people of the Lake Chad Region.
“My dear brother-presidents, we must remain unrelenting in providing the needed political and material support for the LCBC/MNJTF in its efforts at delivering regional initiatives that will revamp Lake Chad and revitalise the socio-economic activities of the region.
“The fight against Boko Haram and other forms of criminality in the region must remain issues on the front burner of discourse in the region.
“I thank you all for your support to me as Chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and call on you in the spirit of true African brotherhood, to extend the same support to my successor.
“I also wish to thank the Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Head of Mission of the Multinational Joint Task Force, Ambassador Mamman NUHU, and his team for their efforts at delivering on the mandate of the Commission. Keep the lofty ideals of ensuring that the people of the region optimally benefit from the resources of the region,’’ Buhari stated.
The president welcomed the State of Libya to active participation in the activities of the Commission.
“This is a positive step in the quest of our sister nation to rise beyond its current travails and to return to active engagements in the comity of nations. Together, we shall collectively pursue our shared objectives of joint development of the Lake Chad region,’’ he said.
On his stewardship as Chairman of the LCBC, Buhari said the meeting provided a platform to holistically review collective efforts at sustainable management of shared heritage, Lake Chad, and to reinvigorate efforts at ensuring peace and stability in the region.
He said it, “equally provided an opportunity to reflect on the journey so far since 2018 when my dear brothers bestowed on me, the task of steering this unique organisation, an honour for which I am grateful.
“In the last four years, the Commission and indeed the region witnessed several challenges. However, with your support, we rose to the task of addressing them.
“As my mandate as Chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission comes to an end, I am proud of the great strides we continue to collectively make to ensure that we ultimately restore the Lake Chad Region to its once enviable state as a hub of economic development.
“Our sustained sacrifices at restoring peace and stability to the region and enabling the people in the area to return to their normal lives and activities are highly commendable.
“During the period under review, we intensified our efforts at ensuring that the drive to revitalize the Lake Chad through the Inter-Basin Water Transfer Project attracts regional and international attention. I acknowledge the concerted efforts of the Commission, in consonance with our partners, towards giving life to this laudable and all-important project.
“Progress has been made towards procuring the services of a world-class firm to conduct in-depth feasibility study on the improvement of the hydraulic capacities of the major tributaries of the Lake and to improve the retention capacity of the Lake itself. This is the first and most important step towards ensuring that the project is executed in conformity with international best practices and that the solutions we seek today are sustainable.’’
Buhari said it was heartwarming to note the various interventions that had been carried out through the Commission to complement the developmental initiatives of various governments in the region.
“Initiatives such as the Lake Chad Emergency Development Program; the Program for the Rehabilitation and Strengthening of the Resilience of the Socio-Ecological Systems of the Lake Chad Basin; Lake Chad Region Recovery and Development Project, as well as the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery, and Resilience of Boko Haram, affected areas of the region are worthy of mention.
“The LCBC through these interventions has improved the revenue-generating capacities, resilience, and productive capabilities of the people of the region, most of whom are engaged in primary production, adding value to them, and enabling them to take control of their means of livelihood,’’ he said.
The president noted that through the Regional Stabilisation Strategy and its implementing components, the people of the region affected by the scourge of Boko Haram had continued to receive the support they needed towards ensuring that they effectively return to their normal homes.
“You will recall that following the demise of our dear brother, H.E. Idriss Deby ITNO of Chad, in April 2021, I, under the umbrella of the Commission, convened an Extraordinary and enlarged Summit of Heads of State and Government of the region on 25thMay 2021 to review and consider the situation in Chad. This was aimed at ensuring stability and a peaceful transition in that nation.
“With your support, and in execution of the decisions of the Extraordinary Summit, I have taken several measures including, appointing an accomplished diplomat, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, in June 2021, as the Special Envoy of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to facilitate the transition in Chad.
“Through his efforts, I have remained actively informed of the situation in Chad. Accordingly, I wish to reiterate to the government and people of the Republic of Chad, our collective commitment to actively work with them to navigate the processes of the transition in that country to a successful conclusion,’’ the president stated.
Earlier in his welcome address at the Summit, the Executive Secretary of the LCBC, Mamman Nuhu, disclosed that Nigeria had remitted a total of $209,075,748 to the funding of the MNJTF between 2015 and 2021.
“I want to avail myself of this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to your Excellencies for your unwavering support to your respective MNJTF sectors, regardless of other challenges that equally demand similar support from you.
“Special thanks also to the Chairman of the Summit, for his tireless support to the MNJTF, the last remittance of the sum of $10,500,000 on April 6, 2021, brought the total direct disbursement of Nigeria to the MNJTF to $209,075,748 from 2015 to 2021”, he disclosed.
The event had presidents and Heads of State of the six member-states in attendance, with the exception of President Paul Biya of Cameroon, who was represented by one of his ministers.
Those who personally attended the summit were Prof. Faustine Archange TOUADERA, President of the Central African Republic; Mohamed BAZOUM, President and Head of State of Niger Republic; Patrice TALLON, President of the Republic of Benin; Mahamat Idriss Deby ITNO, President of the Transition Military Council of Chad, President of the Republic, Head of State; Mohamed AL-MENFI, Chairman, Presidential Council of Libya.