The federal government continued to put pressure on its western partners yesterday to “proscribe” bandits, Boko Haram, and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as terrorists.
The administration stated that doing so would drastically cut funding for the groups, while also stating that it was doing everything in its power to put an end to the killings across the country.
Mr Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, made the claim yesterday in response to an editorial in the Daily Trust newspaper titled “Life Has Lost Its Value Under Buhari’s Nigeria.”
While the federal government had previously declared both Boko Haram and IPOB as terrorist organizations, bandits were ultimately added to the list last month by a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Taiwo Taiwo.
Apart from outlawing the three organisations, the presidential spokesman suggested that Nigeria’s Western allies should work with the country on commerce and investment to deplete the pool of unemployed Nigerians from which the various violent groups recruit their members.
The economic instability caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the administration, has also proven to be a successful recruitment tool for criminals and terrorists across the country, as well as the African continent as a whole.
“Even as the West continues to extricate itself from Africa militarily, we are lobbying our Western allies aggressively for partnership, investment and support in other areas, such as proscribing Boko Haram, bandits and IPOB as terrorist groups. This would severely dent their funding
“(We are asking) them for investment in trade and infrastructure, to help lessen economic instability; and to help with technical assistance, advanced weaponry, intelligence and ordinance,” the presidency stressed.
Shehu explained that although this will likely be small comfort to the families and loved ones of those already lost, ridding the country of avoidable deaths is a battle the federal government is fighting without let up.
Stating that the growing instability and violence in the north of Nigeria and elsewhere were unacceptable, the federal government pointed out that no one, not least the presidency underestimates the seriousness of the situation.
“Every day, the president holds the victims and their families in his thoughts and prayers. Above all, he wishes to reassure them – and all Nigerians – that tackling the scourge of banditry and terrorism remains this government’s first priority,” the government added.
Shehu, on the other hand, maintained that Nigeria is not alone in terms of violence and terrorism, claiming that violence and terror have increased significantly across the African continent over the previous decade.
He said that the “Economist magazine” just published an article titled “The Next Afghanistan,” warning the international world about the terrifying security situation in the region, highlighting Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger in particular.
Shehu emphasized that the presidency understands the newspaper’s and Nigeria’s northern communities’ displeasure with the country’s ongoing security difficulties, adding that the Buhari administration is concerned about the situation as well.
The Buhari administration maintained that it is only fair to conclude that Nigeria’s relentless and ongoing efforts to suppress insecurity have yielded results, with terror groups like Boko Haram “reduced to a shadow of their former selves,” among others.
“Yet now we Nigerians face a new threat: the worst global health crisis in living memory. Even Nigeria that proudly holds the mantle of Africa’s largest economy is not immune from the debilitating economic impact of COVID-19.
“ The economic instability that the pandemic has wreaked has proven an effective recruitment tool for bandits and terrorists across the continent.
“Indeed, the Best News Network has correctly identified the source of the violence as ‘an amalgam of many complex issues’ such as poverty and unemployment. It is equally right to note that, in tackling the violence, ‘force alone will not be enough.
“It is quite wrong, however, to suggest the problem of insecurity is intractable, and more wrong still to claim apathy on the part of the government,” the presidency argued.
Continuing on what the federal government was doing to ameliorate the situation, Shehu stated that the Nigerian military efforts have not let up, but admitted that it is true that in the face of today’s growing number of threats from Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers and IPOB to run of the mill bandits, the forces were stretched increasingly thin.
“Second, alongside military force, this government is seeking to address the violence at its economic source. Massive infrastructure projects like the coastal rail and new train from the southern coast through the north-east to our neighbour Niger aim to expand employment and opportunity across the country, bringing hope to our more remote and poorer regions where bandits and terrorists thrive,” he said.
The spokesman maintained that the president exchanges violence for the support he got electorally was “beneath a publication that claims any kind of political neutrality or integrity.”
According to the presidency, the focus as Nigerians must be on coming together and ending the violence pervading the country.
“As President Buhari wrote recently of the terrorists in UK paper ‘The Financial Times’: “We will defeat them, one highway, one rail link – and one job – at a time,” the statement added.