BY REMILEKUN DARAMOLA in Maiduguri•
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has said that the ongoing crisis in the Northeast of the country demands unprecedented collaboration between the military and the humanitarian actors.
He said this would remove conflicts between the military and humanitarian actors and subsequently bring succour to the people of the sub-region.
The President, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd.) at the opening ceremony of a-three day workshop on Civil-Security Summit, organised by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in Maiduguri on Wednesday, however lamented that: “The relationship between humanitarian and security actors responding to the Humanitarian crisis is always fraught with mistrust in many theatres of conflict globally.”
“In the North East of Nigeria, the tension between the CSOs and the security apparatus deteriorated into a full-blown impasse this year, which ultimately resulted in the suspension of activities of some INGOs by Operation Lafiya Dole Theatre Command. These challenges have had an adverse effect on humanitarian response.
“Following the series of mediation efforts, and high-level interactions between the Federal Government, leaders of the Humanitarian community and the UN System, it was agreed that there was an urgent need to develop a Civil Security Cooperation (CISEC) framework for Humanitarian Interventions in the North East.
“Hence, our gathering here today is to strategise and stress the importance of fostering a better relationship between the military, Para-military and the other humanitarian actors in the face of the crisis in the North East.
“It is my expectation that this workshop will lay the critical foundation to foster better relations between the Civil Security Organizations (CSOs) and the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies with the sole objective targeted at ensuring better collaboration, cooperation and coherence in their activities in the North East.
“I should remind us that with the proliferation of complex security issues in conflict zones, civil society and security agencies need to work together on an unprecedented level as these problems cannot be easily solved by either side.
“The security issues I refer to are not just the traditional warfare and conflict, but also non-traditional security issues like humanitarian emergencies, pollution, starvation, diseases, international terrorism and organised crime. More often than not, the aftermath of some of these non-traditional security issues will involve post-conflict reconstruction and economic rejuvenation.
“This requires increasingly diverse ancillary tasks for both military and civilian organisations, which necessitates collaboration. The complicated objectives of these activities require an integrated and coordinated response from a multitude of civilian and military actors. Hence, the imperative actively debate, and shape their aims and policies into a single, coherent strategy that encompasses both strategic and tactical aims now.
“Therefore, the importance of this event cannot be overemphasized. The presentations you will be hearing will aim to promote knowledge, understanding and implementation of a civil – security agencies coordination in the theatre of conflict.”
Reading the opening address, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq said: “It is apparent that where civil-security relations are poorly managed, humanitarian action may inadvertently compound other security problems.”
She said “it has become obvious that it is increasingly more difficult for humanitarian organisations to operate independently in humanitarian environments. The presence of security operatives in many of the crisis-ridden areas make those communities safe and accessible for humanitarian actors to carry out their activities.
“Therefore, the need to ensure cordial, and constructive relations between civil and security actors cannot be over-emphasized.”
She however said the differences in the guiding principles and rules of engagements of the military, security agencies and the international and local Non-Governmental Organisations have been the bane of productive co-existence in the North East.
She admitted that: “These differences often lead to an adversarial relationship fraught with mistrust and misperception. These misunderstandings led to the banning of two (2) INGOs by the Military in August 2019. As we are aware the ban has been temporarily lifted.”
Also making a remark, Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara said he was optimistic that with all the stakeholders brought on board, the outcome of this Summit “will be wonderful and a great leap forward in his our quest for lasting peace and stability in the sub-region.”
He said: “I urge all of you to understand that the task of ensuring lasting peace lies not in addressing military and humanitarian concerns but fundamentally forging a close relationship in the onerous tasks of state building, security sector reform, civil capacity building and promoting social reintegration.”
He added that: “We cannot at this stage afford working separately in an uncoordinated manner that undermines one another with implications for bringing about a lasting- peace in our sub-region.”
Earlier, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Mr. Edward Kallon had said there is urgent need to improved military/humanitarian agencies relationship in the ongoing war against insurgency in the Northeast and zero allowance for fictions.
Kallon, while lamenting that in the last 18 months aid workers have become increasing target of Boko Haram, said: “This crisis deserves our sustained attention and renewed commitment.”
He said: “Having reached its 10th year, the protracted crisis in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe remains the largest humanitarian crisis, with over 7 million people still in need of humanitarian assistance. This crisis deserves our sustained attention and renewed commitment.
“Over the past ten years, over 35,000 people have lost their lives in this crisis. About 14,000 were civilians, but many others were members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.”
He also lamented that: “The crisis has also had a heavy toll on aid workers and the past year has marked a turning point in our response. Aid workers, whether they are working for the United Nations, international or national NGOs or ministries, departments and agencies, have increasingly become the target of attacks by non-state armed groups, criminals and petty thieves. Ten aid workers, all Nigerians, have died as a result of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and other non-state armed groups in the past 18 months. Six of our colleagues are still held hostage.
Though we are still saving the life of many every single day, we are also working within a continuously shrinking humanitarian space, and have reduced access to vulnerable people due to insecurity and a complex operational environment.
“As of this year, two more LGAs have become out-of-reach for the humanitarian community. While we strive to improve the quality of services to people we reach, there are now an estimated 1.2 million people who cannot be reached by the humanitarian community and represent an estimated 50 per cent increase in geographic space and a 30 per cent increase in numbers of people in comparison to last year.”
He added that: “Preserving humanitarian access to the affected population within the current context of the BAY states will continue to be the most critical and challenging element to ensuring a response commensurate to the needs in 2020 and beyond.
He however, commended the military, saying: “The crisis, which once affected six states, is now contained to the three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.”
He added that this made: “The international community joined all Nigerian partners to rapidly scale- up the humanitarian response in accessible LGA and provided humanitarian assistance to 5.6 million people in 2017; 5.5 million people in 2018 and over 4 million in 2019 as of October. The Nigerian Armed Forces in the northeast has been a critical component in ensuring a safe and secure environment to enable humanitarian and development partners to carry out their work.”