Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday said the Nigerian government is spearheading a collective plan to recharge Lake Chad with water from the Congo Basin by constructing a 2,500kilometres navigable channel from River Ubangi in its bid to checkmate Boko Haram and other challenges of violent extremism.
Speaking at the 7th meeting of the ministers of Defence of member states of Sahel-Sahara states in Abuja, Osinbajo noted that it will help tackle the shrinking of Lake Chad due to climate change and human overuse that has seen the lake, shrunk by 95 percent to a current size of about 1,300 square kilometers.
He disclosed that the fight against Boko Haram and violent extremism cannot and will not be won without a collective and determined focus on all those elements that entrench poverty, want and conflict amongst the people of the Community, and that sow the seeds of the criminal exploitation and violence.
His words, “This project (recharging Lake Chad) requires unprecedented levels of political cooperation of member states of the Community, and technical collaboration and financial partnership from international partners: governments, development institutions and investors.
“The planned recharging of the Lake Chad is just one of the many serious interventions to mitigate the worst effects of climate change on our region and the continent.
“The great Green Wall, put forward as a pan-African initiative to combat desertification in the Community is another such initiative, and wholly deserving of our collective praise.
“Under this initiative, trees are being planted in a land strip stretching 7,775 kilometers across the entire Africa from Senegal to Djibouti to stop the desertification.
“Another serious contemporary security threat is the issue of forced migration of people from the Community.
“With over 13 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in 19 countries, Africa remains the continent most affected by internal displacement.
“Forced migration of people, particularly youths from member states of the Community to Europe through illegal, unregulated and highly risky routes, has lately become a serious, protracted and expanding global problem.
“That it is also big business for the powerful transnational criminal syndicates that organize it further complicates the problem.
On the theme of the meeting, ‘Consolidating the Achievement of the Fight against Terrorism through Development Actions’, which focuses attention on the role of non-military components of the fight against terrorism and extremism, the VP said, “If there is one thing we have learned from our experience fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria, it is that the battle is as much social and economic as it is a military one.
“Indeed, the military aspect of the fight against terrorism is the short-term one; enduring victory will only come from swiftly and diligently building on military victory by implementing, over the long term, policies that comprehensively tackle the poverty, illiteracy and frustration that pre-dispose individuals and communities to imbibing extremist beliefs and ideologies.
“But the narrative is worsened by the fact that violent extremism and terrorism do not walk alone, they are usually to be found interlinked with human trafficking, drug trafficking, illicit trade in drugs and arms, and various other forms of transnational organized crimes.
“Within the Community, the security challenge has assumed new dimensions since the Arab Spring, with the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya proving to be a watershed moment.
“Countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria have since then experienced an escalation of the twin global threats of violent extremism and terrorism, among others.
“This escalation of threats and vulnerabilities in the region has become an immediate and urgent security threat to the Community.
“But it is also encouraging to note that significant progress has been made to contain the terrorist challenges through the individual and collective actions of our respective States and through our respective regional economic communities.
“The successes of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in combating the Boko Haram menace in the sub-region have significantly resulted in the degrading of the group, in terms of membership, and of recruitment and combat capabilities.
“Similarly, the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with the support of the United Nations and other strategic partners has made impressive progress in the fight against Al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
“In this ongoing fight against terrorism and violent extremism, the importance of intelligence sharing by member states of the Community has come strongly to the fore, considering the achievements recorded by the Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit (RIFU) of the MNJTF in the joint fight against the Boko Haram, as well as the gains made through the Sahel Fusion Liaison Units, which have arisen from the NOA-SHOT-(Nouakchott) Process and the Djibouti Process.
“Also the countries of the Horn of Africa and East Africa have recently launched the East African Fusion Liaison Unit (EA-FLU) in Kampala, Uganda. Besides, there have also been the Sharm-El-Sheik declaration of 2016 by the community of Defence Ministers of CEN-SAD reinforcing the cooperation of member states in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and the Cocody declaration which addressed inter-alia the control and regulation of the movement of small arms and light weapons through the borders of member states.”
“This is a fight that cannot and will not be won without a collective and determined focus on all those elements that entrench poverty, want and conflict amongst the people of the Community, and that sow the seeds of the criminal exploitation and violence.
“These elements include the ecological threats of desertification and drought, as well as the phenomenon of forced human migration.
“Africa has historically been susceptible to desertification due to the preponderance of semi-arid, arid and hyper-arid lands. Climate change and other factors collectively exacerbate these natural geographical conditions to make more than 319 million hectares of Africa vulnerable to desertification.
“In the CEN-SAD Community, the Sahara Desert is advancing southwards at an alarming rate of approximately 600 meters annually.
Defence minister, Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali in his address, said the proliferation of internal security threats within member States and the increasing nature of transnational criminal activities across the Community of CEN-SAD States necessitated the dynamic expansion of its mandate to cover the mitigation of both physical and human security threats.
He said, “It is common knowledge that the security climate in the Sahel-Saharan States is characterized by several internal threats and a lineage of organized cross-border crimes that challenge the internal security and stability of the States and the region generally.
“Among these organized trans-border crimes, the one that is of great concern to the Community of
Sahel-Saharan States is the recent spread of violent extremism, proliferation of terrorists’ organizations in the region and the accompanying incidence of terrorism like Boko Haram Terrorists and ISIS amongst others.
“Consequently, the Community of CEN-SAD delegates to Defence Ministers’ recently adopted the Sharm-el-Sheikh Declaration in 2016 so as to reinforce cooperation among member states in the fight against insurgency and terrorism.
“This resolve was followed by definite kinetic steps articulated in the Cocody Declaration; which includes, regulation and control of the influx of small arms and light weapons, and the need to intensify cooperation and intelligence sharing among Member States, increased interest in the fight against human and drug trafficking, Trans-National organized crimes and cyber security initiatives. These are aimed at finding lasting solutions to the pervading threats.
“The cooperation and collaboration by members States in the fight against insurgency and terrorism have yielded positive results. For instance, the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising of troops from Benin, Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, operating in the Lake Chad region against Boko Haram insurgency in collaboration with Nigeria’s Operation Lafiya Dole forces have significantly degraded the Boko Haram terrorists who are currently not controlling any expanse of land in the region and their activities are now limited to suicide bomb attack on soft targets.
“A similar feat has also been achieved by the G-5 Sahel Joint Force formed by troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in their operations against Islamic State linked terrorists along their shared borders in order to ensure normalcy in the territory of member States.