By: Bukar Raheem
Often, crises emanating from one African country have the spiral effect of affecting neighbouring countries. With the sheer geographical size and population of Nigeria, any crisis which overwhelms the country would have severe negative impact on other countries in the continent.
No one is oblivious of the humanitarian problems such as the influx of refugees fleeing from war zones to take refuge in other peaceful countries, which exploded crisis cause. Deaths, hunger and starvation, displacement of populations (Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), diseases and so forth are the various afflictions humanity suffers in time of crisis.
It is very instructive that regional bodies such the African Union or ECOWAS governments often intervene or mediate in matters with the tendency of developing into the dimensions of crisis and threats to peace and security of populations.
Although, Boko Haram insurgency started in Nigeria. But it took a short while for it to send the clear message of its potency to breach the peace and security of other African countries, particularly, Nigeria’s neighbours. The decision to frontally tackle the menace of Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) led to the expansion of the mandate of the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in April 2012 to include anti-terrorism operations.
The MNJTF assembled troops from Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Benin to combat Boko Haram terrorism. Its initial headquarters was in Baga, Borno state in Nigeria. But when Boko Haram insurgents overran MNJTF headquarters in Nigeria, it was relocated to N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.
By the mandate of the MNJTF, troops of each of the MNJTF member- countries were free to pursue insurgents into the territories of others and also effectively battle terrorists within their communities. They were to carry out joint operations on counter-terrorism from time to time.
While security experts were optimistic that the reinvigoration of the MNJTF would give Boko Haram terrorists a good run for their money, the sect rather appreciated in strength and atrocities, especially in Nigeria. Troops in the MNJTF became toothless bulldogs, as Boko Haram terrorists freely unleashed a reign of terror on humanity.
And suddenly, it became open secret that only Nigeria showed interest in the funding and operations of the MNJTF, which was supported by the European Union (EU) and the USA. The other member-countries like Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Benin displayed open disinterest.
It largely accounted for the festering of Boko Haram terrorism for years and unhindered until in 2015 that the Nigerian Military contained it. But even efforts by the Nigerian military to completely rout Boko Haram terrorists now, appear to be frustrated by these same countries.
The MNJTF was allowed to its fate and its influence fizzled out rapidly. For instance, from the $700 million budgeted MNJTF operations in a year, by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, just about $250 million was realizable in cash and pledges. This amount fall short of the basic expectations.
The Chief Executive Officer of a Berlin-based security firm MOSECON, Mr. Yan St-Pierre was quoted as dissecting the problems which song the pre-mature dirge for MNJTF as political restiveness, regional rivalries and language differences.
He said the MNJTF “works in spurts, and it works in little bursts, but it’s not this consistently working, effective coalition.”
Former American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell expressed similar doubts. He was sure that had the MNJTF functioned or collaborated as intended, Boko Haran insurgents would not have displayed the strength it flaunts in the region.
And apart from Benin Republic, other countries comprising the MNJTF team are oil-rich countries which have no plausible excuses for the refusal to fund of the security body. They betrayed the diplomatic pact since, Boko Haram terrorism raged mainly in Nigeria and it was therefore, not necessarily their main concern.
Equally annoying is the reality that each time fleeing Boko Haram terrorists stray into these countries, they rather accord them protective shield, instead of seeing them as enemies of humanity and battling them to a standstill. And in offending pretensions, these Francophone countries in the security pact or arrangement of MNJTF expend more time, energy and resources in organizing summits on terrorism. But ideas emanating from these submits have never been utilized in any form in the counter-terrorism war.
Nigeria can boast that residues of terrorists are hardly found on its shores or anywhere in the Northeast. Scores have been arrested, since the fall of Sambisa forest. But these fleeing terrorists have relocated to bordering communities of these countries without any form of molestation by security agents. The chapter on Boko Haram terrorism would have closed long ago, had the MNJTF or regular security forces of these countries complemented the current efforts of Nigeria’s COAS, Lt.Gen. Yusufu Tukur Buratai, whose launch of “Operation Crackdown” has seen Nigerian troops combing the villages and communities in the Northeast search of remnants of terrorists .
What do these countries stand to benefit to see Nigeria ravaged by terrorism? Could it possibly be part of the continental conspiracy against Nigeria, in order to whittle its powers as a regional and continental force? What is the joy is seeing that a bunch of devils recklessly wastes an innocent humanity?
But Nigeria is determined to resist and defeat the ragtag local militia which brands itself as Boko Haram terrorists or whatever name anytime. And Nigeria’s big-brotherly role in Africa cannot be eroded on account of its sabotage by unfriendly neighbours. It has never hesitated to render assistance to needy African countries and would continue to do so.
And it makes more sense for these countries to understand and appreciate the war against Boko Haram terrorists as as a war to save humanity and not Nigeria’s alone. So, if Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Benin Republics re-commit and rededicate themselves to the counter-terrorism war in the region, they would be seen as responding to the cause of humanity. History will not judge them kindly should they continue to sustain their present posture of indifference or tacit support of terrorism in whatever guise.
Raheem writes from Kaduna, Kaduna State.