Dr. Sam Ode
No matter what hardship Nigerians may face presently, what must be acknowledged is that the days that Boko Haram fighters operated as a parallel state to Nigeria is over. This feat of containing the insurgent depended largely on the will to look inwards while not being totally dismissive of international partners. The quality and effectiveness of his choice of leadership for the military services have been adequately articulated by other writers. The additional icing on the cake is Mr President’s implementation of what almost amounted to community policing in the fight against terror.
This refers to the training and induction of over 250 ex-Civilian JTF members into the Nigerian Army and the Department of State Services (DSS). Their absorption into the security bodies would offer the advantages derivable from community policing. Members of the Civilian JTF being from the northeast are familiar with and understand the terrain and would automatically be able to give the military the added advantage needed to give Boko Haram a final blow.
A country like Afghanistan offers a graphic example of the danger of allowing members of a militia that fought terrorists to go unaddressed. In the course of time they stand the risk of themselves becoming a small scale terror franchise or in other instances they simply go ahead to declare the areas they have liberated from extremists as being independent of the larger state thereby provoking another round of crisis.
This perhaps accounts for the positive reception of the absorption of the 250 former Civilian JTF members into the Nigerian Army.
After all, these are young men who have experienced battles without being formally trained as fighters and now being paid as soldiers would definitely boost their morale to more stiffly defend their homelands and by extension the whole of Nigeria as expected of soldiers.
The role of the Nigerian Army in the adoption of these youths is not lost however. It had made good use of the support they provided. Fighting Boko Haram alone, the civilian JTF wouldn’t have amounted to much if Mr President had not tweaked the leadership of the military services to turn the tide against the terrorists.
The reality, however, is that there are still several members of the vigilante group that are still out of the system. It is imperative they are brought into the system as a safeguard to ensuring that there is no replication of the Afghanistan scenario in the north east or a situation where the youths resort to crimes out of desperation. This is bearing in mind that there is not much of jobs they can return to in an area whose economy has been wiped out of existence.
A recent interview granted by the Borno State Coordinator of the Civilian Joint Task Force, Abba Aji Kalli, captured the many of the challenges the youths that joined the group face now that the war is winding down. They need employment and are broke after years of abandoning their occupations to take on marauding extremists . They need assurances that relations of their fallen colleagues would not suffer deprivation.
The latter need can be taken care of by special government programmes and NGOs like the Peace, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation Initiatives (PPRI) and other groups working with persons left vulnerable by the Boko Haram crisis. The issue of employment should however fall to the Army. But since the institution may not be in a position to take in all the youths that have been part of fighting the terrorists, Mr President should mandate the other security and para-military organisations to absorb their own share of the numbers. This would of course be after a database has been created by the Army of all those that are members of the body to ensure questionable characters do not hide under the cover of the initiative to sneak into security agencies.
But even before these necessary next steps are taken, it is befitting to recognise and appreciate President Buhari’s ingenuity in adopting this strategy of community policing in the present phase of the anti-terror fight. The approach he has adopted to addressing the joblessness that is beginning to confront the members of the Civilian JTF will definitely save Nigeria from having to deal with the Afghanistan kind of situation. It is further a proof that Nigeria can solve Nigeria’s problems without undue recourse to outside assistance.
In return, every single one of those that have been integrated into the Army must be mindful of their conducts to ensure there will no basis to discontinue the approach on account of bad behaviour from anyone. Of course, going by the way they conducted themselves as an informal fighting force there is not much fear that they would live up to expectations.
The task left now is for Nigerians to support the government, military and those still in the civilian JTF to succeed in smoking out the remaining terrorists from wherever they are hiding so that the rebuilding of the northeast can begin in earnest and displaced persons able to return home.
Ode is former Minister, Niger Delta Affairs ( State) and sent in this piece from Abuja.
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