President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called for more vigilance and tightening of security around borders to check the increasing number of arms, ammunition, and other weapons from the Russia and Ukraine war in the Lake Chad Basin.
Speaking at the 16th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), the president who is the chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Government said the 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. There is, therefore, the urgent need for expedited collaborative actions by our border control agencies and other security services to stop the circulation of all illegal weapons in the region,” a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted President Buhari as saying.
The president said the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) deserves commendation for various operations that has brought measurable stability to the Lake Chad Basin.
He stated: “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”.
President Buhari 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.
His words: “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 cognizance 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 was effectively decimated”.
Buhari urged the leaders to complement the fight against terrorism with development.
He said, “Although terrorist 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 Stabilization, 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 operationalization.
“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 Nigerian leader recalled that 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 organization. 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 remain a challenge for all member countries, considering the declining global inflows and increasing demands.
“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,” he added.
The President 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.
He said, “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 revitalize 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”.
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, President 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.
Earlier in his remarks, the chairman of the LCBC, Ambassador Mammam Nuhu, said two reports of the 68th session of the Council of Ministers will be presented, as well as a report by the special envoy for Chadian transition.