*Says it’s time to consider hiring mercenaries
*Canvasses change in security agencies’ recruitment process
Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, on Thursday, expressed concern about the increasing sophistication and spread of the terrorist group, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), in the state.
Zulum said the federal government must do everything in its power to defeat ISWAP now, or else the menace constituted by the Boko Haram terrorist sect would be nothing compared to what the group would do when they gain stability.
He advised the government to seek external help in the fight against insurgency, including hiring mercenaries, saying there is nothing wrong with such. He cited the fact that advanced countries, like United States and United Kingdom, sometimes sought external help.
The governor took a swipe at the current recruitment process into the armed forces and other security agencies, saying unless it is addressed, the security situation may just get worse.
Zulum, who spoke yesterday at the State House, Abuja, during a media briefing, however, attributed the successes so far recorded against insurgency in his state to the free access he had to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the governor, “Notwithstanding all the contributions of the federal government, we still have some challenges. One, I said it before, a growing number of ISWAP in some parts of the state is a matter of great concern to everybody. Why? They are in the shores of the Lake Chad, again in southern Borno State. Luckily enough, I was told there was military deployment yesterday (Wednesday) to southern Borno State to fight the insurgents in the Tudun Katarangwa.
“But I think this is the early warning system. We shouldn’t allow ISWAP to grow. ISWAP are more sophisticated, more funded and they’re more educated. And we should do everything possible to defeat ISWAP; otherwise, what Boko Haram did will be a child’s play.
“This is an early warning system. Nigerian Army has to re-strategise and defeat ISWAP. ISWAP will be a threat to the entire nation, because of the proximity of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are coming from Libya and others resettling here.”
Zulum listed various successes recorded by his administration. He said before the advent of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the insurgency had triggered acute humanitarian and post-displacement crisis, with devastating social and economic consequences on the population, which further deepened fragility and poverty in the North-east region.
Zulum said the outcome of the recovery and peace-building assessment by the World Bank, European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN) revealed that the total sum of $6.9 billion was lost as a result of the insurgency in the entire North-east states, with Borno incurring over two-thirds of the losses.
He said the insurgents had destroyed about 5,000 classrooms in the state, and 800 municipal buildings, comprising local government ssecretariats, prisons, and traditional rulers’ buildings, among others. He added that the terrorists also destroyed about 713 energy distribution lines and about 1,600 water sources, and produced an estimated 49,311 widows and about 49,974 orphans.
While describing the above as “official figures”, he contended, “The unofficial figures are more than this”. He said before now, out of 27 local governments in Borno State, at a time, about 22 of them were under the control of Boko Haram insurgents.
Zulum recalled that there was a time the state had only one access to road to Maiduguri, which was from Kano to Maiduguri.
“The magnitude of the destruction was scary,” he said, adding that, today, the situation is better.
Zulum stressed, “I want to say something categorically. One of the major reasons why we have been succeeding in the North-east, in particular in Borno State, is because of one major fundamental thing: there was never a time I requested to see Mr. President and I was denied access.
“And then whether we like it or not, a few days ago, I’ve said something about two local governments still not occupied by human population. I think that there is some misunderstanding. Some say that two local governments are under the control of Boko Haram, no. Two local governments are not occupied by human population. But whether we like it or not, it’s right because if two local governments are not occupied, what does it mean?
“It means the capacity is not there to protect this human population to go to this local government areas. But we’re working with the Nigerian Army to ensure immediate resettlement of people to Malam Fatori, which is the headquarters of Abadam local government. And again, Ogunbaden, headquarters of Mainari local government.
“We are not saying that these two local government are under their control, but these two local governments are not under human occupation. We need support from the federal government to support the relocation of these people to these local government areas. This committee that has been constituted by the federal government will look into these matters, among others.”
The governor said the second challenge was Lake Chad. He explained, “We want clearance of the shores of the Lake Chad. Again, in conclusion, while the challenge of insecurity is being solved gradually, it is not yet over.
“I have said it times without number that in addition to what we are doing, there is a need for government to rethink and look into the possibility of hiring mercenaries. I have said it times without number, there’s nothing wrong. America, Britain, and many more countries that are stronger than Nigeria, who used to seek support outside, there’s nothing wrong, because this problem has been compounded. And it’s not easy for us to solve the security challenges that we’re having now.
“While Nigeria is providing a lot of things, the federal government is buying equipment, there is the need for us to seek support from external agencies to defeat these insurgents once and for all before the matter will reach other parts of the nation. This is very important, whether we like it or not, we have existing gaps that we need to fill and this gap by now cannot be filled without external support, while we continue to build our own institutions, training and retraining.
“One very serious challenge that we have, our recruitment process has to be looked into. Yes, you can just say recruitment for army, collecting notes from governors, ministers and others and the people are queuing in. As long as we are not willing to sanitise our recruitment procedures into the armed forces, police, SSS and others, we will not get the right people. This is something that needs to be done. The truth is bitter.
“And then funding is critical. Yes, funding to our military. Let us investigate how much has trickled down. The commanding officers are important; procurement processes are also very important. Then stronger solidarity among the security forces and sustained campaigns are needed to finish off the remnants of the insurgents in the fringes of the North-east. It is very important.
“The resettlement needs to go hand-in-hand with livelihood support and more resources are needed to do more for the people. Greater understanding is required of the security forces to support protection, action in places of resettlement, and all over Borno.
“The last, but not the least, we must not allow the 2023 general election to shift our attention completely away from the focus and restoration of peace in North-east and, indeed, other parts of the nation.”
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