Despite spending over $1bn to reclaim Boko Haram-held territories in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States since 2015, Nigeria’s security and that of the Lake Chad Basin remains unstable due to lingering conflicts in Libya, the Central African Republic and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said this on Tuesday, shortly after receiving the “Award for Strengthening Peace in Africa” conferred on him by the Abu Dhabi Peace Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.
“Although we are winning the war, however, as a country and sub-region, we continue to be negatively impacted by events in Libya, the Central Africa Republic, The Sahel and the war in Ukraine,” Buhari told his counterparts at the African Conference for Peace, 2023.
The President premised his argument on the free circulation of “all sorts of small and light weapons” orchestrated by foreign fighters.
He also reasoned that the idleness of African youths and non-inclusion in discussing issues that concern them is providing a steady recruitment pool for the extremist organisations wreaking havoc in various parts of the continent.
He, therefore, urged leaders to place a premium on youth development, with more seriousness and actionable ideas in promoting skills acquisitions while discouraging idleness.
This is according to a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, titled ‘President Buhari receives award for peace in Africa, lists conditions for future harmony.’
The President said, “When I assumed power in 2015, Boko Haram held about two-thirds of Borno State, half of Yobe State, and a couple of local government areas in Adamawa State, all in the North-East of Nigeria.
“We have been able to retrieve these swathes of territories by investing over $1bn to acquire hard and software weaponry from the US and other friendly countries to carry out sustained operations against insurgency since 2015.”
According to him, these monies would have been better spent on critical infrastructure such as healthcare and education.
“Our Armed Forces and those of our partners in the Multinational Joint Task Force (consisting of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Benin Republic and Nigeria) continue to demonstrate great bravery while paying the ultimate price in securing our collective freedom.
“Despite the difficult times we face, we continue to spend very scarce and lean resources to ensure that we have a well-resourced military force to take on this task. Ideally, these are resources that could be spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure and other social services, but without peace, we have learnt the hard way that our children cannot go to school or seek good healthcare,” the President stated.
He explained that the scenario created serious instability and served as a litmus test for member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in devising means to restore the livelihoods within the region.
The President urged his counterparts to concretise efforts to curtail and possibly prevent the circulation of Small Arms and Light Weapons and the festering of foreign fighters into Africa.
To the current chairperson of the AU, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Buhari said the next Summit of Union must find a pragmatic African approach to resolving the over a decade-old instability that made the country a haven for all kinds of weapons and foreign fighters.
In his remarks, the President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, said the 2023 conference theme was based on the recommendations of the “Nouakchott Declaration” that emerged from the inaugural conference.
Bayyah explained that the award was given to Buhari for providing good leadership, promoting peace in a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-linguistic country like Nigeria and extending his experience and wisdom to other African countries.