The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya, has commiserated with troops who were involved in a road traffic accident on Thursday, at Garin Kuturu, along Maiduguri-Damaturu road.
According to the COAS, the incident happened while the troops were responding to a distress call.
One of the gun trucks conveying them skidded off the road and rammed into a road shoulder, causing the vehicle to somersault.
However, General Yahaya said no fatality was recorded and nine personnel who sustained varying degrees of injury in the accident have been evacuated and are currently receiving medical attention in a military medical facility.
He also lauded the troops for their swift response and urged them to be more circumspect during emergency operational responses.
The Taraba State Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku, has called on the Federal Government to speed up oil exploration in the north east region of the country in order to help enhance and diversify the country’s economy.
The Governor made the appeal on Tuesday, at the 5th meeting of the North East Governors’ Forum Held at the Government House in the state capital, Jalingo.
“I am delighted that oil has been discovered in the North East, notably in the Bauchi-Gombe axis and in Taraba State, but ours has both oil and gas. In the same line, I urge the federal government to expand and expedite exploration in the Chad basin, as well as the Benue trough, which, according to geological reports, is rich in oil and gas,” Governor Ishaku said.
“As a result of the 13 per cent derivation principle enjoyed by oil-producing States, we anticipate that early exploitation of petroleum resources in the North-East region will increase our revenue profile.
“Similarly, the North-East states are rich in solid mineral reserves that are yet to be exploited. Solid mineral has a stable price on the international market, unlike crude oil and can help enhance and diversify the country’s economy”.
While calling on the Federal Government to work with State Governments to develop their mineral resources, Governor Ishaku also recommended that the Forum push for the removal of the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.
The meeting also touched on other matters such as insurgence, agriculture, road projects, among others.
Read the full details of the meeting below.
Keynote Address Of His Excellency, The Executive Governor Of Taraba State, Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku At The 5th Meeting Of North East Governors’ Forum Held At The Government House, Jalingo On 6th And 7th July, 2021
I warmly welcome my dear Governors of Borno, Adamawa, Gombe, Yobe, and Bauchi States to Taraba State, (Nature’s Gift to the nation). Given the importance of this gathering to the overall well-being of our region, and indeed the federation, your arrival has been eagerly awaited.
Important as this meeting is, I will still invite your Excellencies to take advantage of the hospitality of our people and the congenial atmosphere while spending a few days in Jalingo, the State capital.
Your Excellencies, it is encouraging that the North East Governors Forum has established itself as a powerful voice in the Nigerian political arena; however, we must continue to make conscious and deliberate efforts to keep our unique concerns at the forefront of national debate to achieve the desired recognition.
Indeed, our affinity as a geopolitical zone precedes Nigeria’s merger, and subsequent post-independence political and administrative fragmentations have not affected who we are. As a result, this Forum should be in the vanguard of further reinforcing mutually beneficial social and economic integrations of our government and people.
If we wish to bring national attention to our plights, we must be able to harmonize our thoughts and communicate in unison. In other words, an injury to one is an injury to all.
Thus, the Forum must speak out loudly as the voice of each State and all the states, because as it is now, certain important issues are left to the affected states to handle alone.
On this premise, this Forum must be more proactive in ensuring that the multibillion-dollar Mambilla Hydro-Electric Power Project (MHEPP), with a capacity of 3050 megawatts, is fully operational, as it can generate half of the present national power output from all existing generation stations combined.
There is, however, a pressing need to also construct an access road to the dam site which is located in Barup village, on the Mambilla Plateau, in Sardauna Local Government Area of the State.
The economic benefits of the power project, Your Excellencies, cannot be overemphasized, considering its potential to create hundreds of thousands of skilled and unskilled jobs for Taraba State, the Northeast region, and the entire country. This is why, as the voice of the North East, our Forum must vigorously advocate for the commencement of this massive project as soon as possible.
To this end, the North-East Governors’ forum needs to meet with the leadership of the National Assembly to press for budgetary provisions to be made in the supplementary appropriation as there is zero allocation in the 2021 Federal Budget.
As you are all aware, distinguished members of this forum, one of the long-standing difficulties affecting our region is the long-running insurgency that has disrupted our way of life and become a barrier to our developmental efforts.
I do, however, appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari’s renewed energy in confronting the Boko Haram threat, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, and other criminal activities head-on, and add that more is needed to be done to overcome these security challenges once and for all in the whole country.
12, Due to the persistent Boko Haram issue, we have lost a large section of our population. Many people have lost loved ones, and their livelihoods have been devastated. The threat will remain intractable as long as the insurgents’ sources of funding, supplies, and recruitment are not cut off.
Permit me to however salute the Nigerian Military’s sacrifices, heroism, and professionalism, not just in the fight against insurgents but also in defending the country’s sovereignty and unity. I must acknowledge that the military, police, and other security organizations have played and continue to play an important role in maintaining peace and security in troubled areas of the State. We will not fail to provide them with the required assistance and cooperation in this difficult undertaking.
The displacement of people from their ancestral homes has resulted in a serious refugee crisis, which is one of the consequences of the insurgency. Taraba has had to shoulder the burden of their plight, with thousands of them fleeing their villages and towns in search of a safe home in the State. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its Taraba State counterpart (SEMA), as well as local and international NGOs, have done a lot to alleviate their suffering, but the problem remains tremendous, and much more has to be done.
Similarly, the herders-farmers conflict has resulted in a high number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), mainly in Taraba State. Given our favourable climate, the ongoing problem has had a severe influence on agricultural output, as evidenced by the country’s high food prices. Insurgency, crime, and the persistent herder-farmer conflicts, no doubt, have impacted negatively on the country’s youth unemployment and high crime rates.
The North East region is one of the agriculture belts of the country. We need to figure out which crops grow in each of our states and where we have a comparative advantage over our competitors. In Taraba state, the government has promoted the cultivation of grains such as maize, guinea corn, and rice, as well as root crops like yam, cassava, and potato. We are also leading producers of beni seed, soya beans, avocado pear, citrus fruits among others. To increase the productivity of our farmers, this forum must key into Federal Government agriculture intervention programmes and also encourage farmers to form cooperatives to access low-interest loan facilities and other incentives.
This brings to mind the Great Green Wall plan, which aims to slow the spread of the Sahara Desert. The initiative should stimulate the planting of economic trees that will provide food for people and also serve as fodder for animals. Desert encroachment, unfortunately, has forced many people to migrate from the Sahel region to other parts of the country, therefore, this African Union programme should be re-energized with the support of this meeting.
On regional co-operation, the Chairman, board of directors of the North- East Regional Shuttle airlines, has been invited to make a presentation to the meeting on its progress, challenges facing the company, and the journey so far.
Respected and admired colleagues, I am delighted that oil has been discovered in the North East, notably in the Bauchi-Gombe axis and in Taraba State, but ours has both oil and gas. In the same line, I urge the federal government to expand and expedite exploration in the Chad basin, as well as the Benue trough, which, according to geological reports, is rich in oil and gas.
As a result of the 13 per cent derivation principle enjoyed by oil-producing States, we anticipate that early exploitation of petroleum resources in the North-East region will increase our revenue profile.
Similarly, the North-East states are rich in solid mineral reserves that are yet to be exploited. Solid mineral has a stable price on the international market, unlike crude oil and can help enhance and diversify the country’s economy.
Our august visitors, in harnessing the oil and gas as well as solid minerals resources in our region for increased revenue, we must avoid the mistakes of environmental contamination in the Niger Delta and Lead poisoning in Zamfara State, by ensuring rigorous environmental impact assessment study, before mining activities commence.
On this basis, I urge the Federal Government to work with State Governments to develop our mineral resources, which are on the exclusive list, even though the land use act vests land matters in the states, to increase income and revenue.
In this regard, I wish to recommend to the forum to push for the removal of the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.
For instance, control over mining is delegated by the central government to regional authorities in South Africa, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, Chile, Canada, and Australia just to mention but a few. The South African Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 is a good example of how this could be resolved for the benefit of central and regional governments.
Dear colleagues, the Federal Government’s Road for tax plan, which gives select corporations like Dangote and BUA groups relief on backlogs of unpaid taxes in exchange for road development, is praiseworthy. Though, some of us have no idea of the criteria used to choose which roads to construct. Therefore, we are calling the Dangote group to consider the construction of selected roads in Adamawa and Taraba States where it has huge investments.
Similarly, the Taraba State Government had earlier made submission to the North-East Development Commission on the construction and rehabilitation of the following roads; Mararaba-Baissa-Abong, Lau-Karim Lamido, and Jalingo-Zing-Mayo Belwa to Ngurore. Therefore, I wish to request the Commission to commence work on the said roads.
Finally, I respectfully request that this distinguished forum debate the topics on the agenda objectively and come up with constructive and helpful solutions to problems that impact not only our region but the entire country.
Once again, I extend the most sincere greetings of the good people of Taraba State and wish you a memorable stay in our lovely State.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Borno State who doubles as chairman of the forum, Professor Babagana Zulum and the host Governor, Darius Ishaku, harped on the need for more infrastructural development in the northeast, including electricity supply.
The meeting has now gone into a closed-door session for further discussion with a communiqué expected to be issued afterward.
The North East governors have backed the call on the Federal Government to engage mercenaries in the fight against insurgents in the region.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, stated this on Tuesday on behalf of his colleagues during a visit to Borno State to condole with the government and the people over the recent killing of farmers in the state.
According to him, the governors are in support of the recommendations made by Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, on how to win the war against Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) insurgents terrorising the region.
“Our dear brother, we are here to condole you over the killing of farmers by Boko Haram insurgents; we are indeed saddened and traumatised,” Governor Ishaku said.
He added, “I will key into your request, which you said that the Federal Government should invite some mercenaries to come and help us out of this problem because what you cannot do, what you cannot solve, I think we should invite who can solve it for us.”
The visit was in the wake of Boko Haram’s beheading of 43 farmers from Zabarmari community who were attacked on Saturday last week at Koshobe, a village in Mafa Local Government Area of Borno.
Apart from engaging mercenaries, Governor Zulum proposed the immediate recruitment of youths into the military to boost its strength, as well as the provision of mine resistance armoured personnel carriers and other equipment for the military, police, and other security agencies involved in the insurgency fight.
During Tuesday’s visit, Governor Ishaku said, “We cannot continuously be mourning, there has to be a time to stop the mourning.
“All of us in the North East Governors Forum, we are pleading with the Federal Government to find a solution to the issue of Boko Haram.”
The Taraba governor also appealed to the Federal Government to look into the infrastructural deficit in the region and give it the needed attention.
According to him, it is embarrassing that the North East has an allocation of 0.35 per cent in the nation’s budget despite the problems of insurgency and others in the region.
“This is very unfair; I will once again call on the Federal Government that the issue of Mambila hydropower project should be looked at as matter of urgency.
“Without this power, we will not indeed have any meaningful development,” Governor Ishaku Stated.
Governor Zulum, in his response, extended his appreciation to the delegation for the visit.
Other governors on the visit included Ahmadu Fitiri of Adamawa, Bala Mohammed from Bauchi, and Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State.
Three flashpoints have been identified as the strongholds of the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East, following a week-long engagement with the service chiefs and other stakeholders in the region.
The areas are Lake Chad fringes, Sambisa Forest, and the Mandara mountains – all located in Borno State.
The engagement which took place on the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari also had the north-east governors in attendance.
“The President has assured the people of Borno State and indeed the north-eastern subregion that he will do everything possible within his reach to ensure that lives and property of people living in Borno State are secured,” Governor Babagan Zulum told reporters in Maiduguri, the state capital shortly after his arrival from Abuja on Sunday.
He added, “We have discussed, especially the issue of strengthening security in the fringes of the Lake Chad and Mandara mountains, as well as in the Sambisa Forest and I think my meeting with the Chief of Air Staff, as well as Chief of Naval Staff and also General (Tukur) Buratai is very promising.”
The governor said Buratai, who is the Chief of Army Staff, promised to look into the issue of clearing the enclaves of the insurgency in the three flashpoints identified.
He was confident that with the renewed commitment of the President and service chiefs, peace would reign again in Borno.
Zulum, who is also the Chairman of the North-East Governors’ Forum, had led his colleagues to the Presidential Villa in the nation’s capital and continued engagements with the service chiefs throughout the week.
While at the Villa, the governors identified some of the root causes of the insurgency raving the region and stressed the need for the Nigerian government to address them
They were of the opinion that the insurgents were taking advantage of endemic poverty and hunger among other challenges in the region to recruit more members into their fold.
The governors said the people need to go back to their farmlands and resettle in their original homes so that they can revive their means of livelihood.
They also recommended that police should be provided with state-of-the-art equipment and armoured personnel carriers, with a view to bridging the manpower gap in the military.
On his part, President Buhari gave strong assurances that security would be restored to Borno State, the North East, and the nation at large.
He also informed the governors that things would improve very soon as the government was acquiring modern equipment to fight insurgencies in the region.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met with Governors from the six North-East states behind closed doors.
According to a Channels Television Correspondent, all service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police were in attendance.
During the meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari urged the Nigerian army to do better in the war against insurgency in the North-East.
According to the president, his administration ran on three key principles: security, the economy, and fighting corruption.
He said security is the ultimate job of government and that based on the level of insecurity his government inherited, the people of the North-East will appreciate what his government has done so far.
President Buhari also congratulated Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, on his emergence as Chairman of the North-East Governors Forum, noting that the security challenges facing Borno are always on his mind.
After the meeting, Zulum addressed newsmen.
He said the government must address the remote causes of insurgency in the North-East, which include widespread poverty, illiteracy, and access to farmlands.
According to him, this is why Boko Haram has been successful in recruiting more members into its fold.
Governor Zulum declined to repeat his allegations of sabotage in the military when asked about the recent attack on his convoy.
The military is doing all it can to combat the insurgents, he said, stressing that they need more equipment to be successful in this endeavour.
Equip the military
The meeting with President Buhari held after the Governors, on Saturday, elected Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, as Chairman of the region’s Governors Forum.
In the communique released after its Saturday meeting, the North-East Governors commended the Federal Government for its efforts in keeping the region safe.
However, it asked the military to “intensify efforts to secure hard-to-reach areas in the region and ensure safe access to farm-lands.”
The Governors requested the deployment of state-of-the-art military hardware to the region and increased arming of police officers to make up for “manpower deficit in the Nigerian Armed Forces.”
The police, they said, should be allowed to “carry state-of-the-art weapons where necessary and be provided with strategic equipment like high-velocity tear gas, trackers and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC).”
Intelligence Not More Arms
In an appearance on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, criminologist Professor Etannibi Alemikha on Monday faulted the Governor’s calls for increased arming of the region.
“From the military or security point of view, what is required is actually not weapons, it is intelligence,” he said.
“I would have expected that they will ask indeed that there is the need for the deployment or greater capacity of intelligence-gathering through the various media.
“You could have the highest weapons; you will still be taken unawares. I think what is largely missing in the North-East situation has been intelligence.”
The professor also disagreed with the idea of handing sophisticated weapons to the police.
“An average policeman encountered on the street should not be carrying AK-47,” he said. “It is not a question of trust, but one of philosophy. The philosophy behind the police is that they are part of the people and therefore they should not use force that is extraordinary.”
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon has suspended the operations of the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).
This followed an attack that caused damage to an aid helicopter on Thursday in Damasak, a town in Borno State.
The attack was said to have been repelled by military forces who inflicted heavy injury on the insurgents who retreated and started shooting sporadically, resulting in the death of three civilians, including a minor.
In a statement on Saturday, Kallon revealed that a UN Humanitarian Air Service helicopter caught up in the crossfire was hit by bullets, causing serious damage.
He said, “I am gravely concerned about reports of another violent attack by non-state armed groups in Damasak, Borno State, on 2 July, in which at least two innocent civilians lost their lives, including a five-year-old child.
“Several others were injured, and a humanitarian helicopter was hit, sustaining serious damage.”
Although the UN representative noted that there was no aid worker aboard the helicopter, he called on the Nigerian Government to investigate the attack and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.
According to him, the attack and damage to the helicopter severely affect the ability of aid actors to provide urgently needed assistance to vulnerable people in remote areas across Borno State.
“The UN Humanitarian Air Service is essential to evacuate wounded civilians and remains the backbone to facilitating humanitarian access, thereby enabling UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to safely and securely reach the most vulnerable populations.
“In 2019, UNHAS transported 66,271 passengers and 147 megatons of humanitarian assistance, as well as conducted 30 medical and 70 security evacuations,” Kallon added.
He condemned the attacks against civilians, humanitarian assets, and aid workers, thereby calling on all armed parties to respect the international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
The UN official also urged the parties to allow and facilitate safe and unimpeded access for humanitarians to deliver life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people in the North East.
According to him, 7.8 million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States, mostly living in remote areas need humanitarian aid.
Kallon explained that in recognition of Thursday’s incident and consultation with some humanitarian organisations, it became necessary to pause UNHAS rotary operations in the region.
He stated that this was to allow the UN to engage government partners and conduct new risk assessments for each helicopter location to ensure that they have taken all the possible mitigation measures.
“The pause will be for an initial period of one week, at which time we will review the situation.
“During this period, life-saving medical and security evacuations will be considered on a case-by-case basis with the authorisation of the Humanitarian Coordinator/Resident Coordinator/Designated Official in consultation with the WFP Country Director,” he said in a leaked memo.
The United Nations is worried about the activities of Boko Haram insurgents at various checkpoints in the North-East.
With the recent trend, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, believes the people in the region and aid workers there are more exposed to attacks by the terrorists.
“I am extremely worried by the increasingly insecure environment that humanitarians are working in to provide urgent and vital assistance to civilians affected by the crisis,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
Kallon added, “The humanitarian community is troubled by the increasing trend in vehicular checkpoints set up by non-state armed groups along main supply routes in the states of Borno and Yobe.
“These checkpoints expose civilians and humanitarians to heightened risks of being killed or abducted.”
The UN envoy also decried the spate of attacks on aid workers providing support to victims of insurgency in the region.
He disclosed that a total of 12 humanitarian workers were killed last year, stressing that the figure doubled the number recorded in 2018.
Kallon blamed the killings on the environment in which aid workers carry out their duties, insisting that the level of insecurity in the region has been on the rise.
He, therefore, called on the Nigerian Government and all relevant agencies to protect the residents and aid workers from “grave violations” of international laws.
Aid workers and the assistance they provide to the most vulnerable populations, according to him, make the difference between life and death for entire communities in crisis-affected Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.
The Defence Headquarters has denied reports that troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria are arbitrarily detaining children in its facilities in the North East.
The DHQ in a statement by it’s Acting Director Defence Information, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu said that children used as suicide bombers by terrorists are arrested, managed and treated as victims of war and not as suspects.
This is a reaction to a report by the Human Rights Watch, accusing the Armed Forces of Nigeria arbitrarily detaining children. The DHQ added that the apprehended children are adequately fed, profiled and de-radicalized before their release, as captured by the civil society group in its report.
“It is an established fact that Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) indoctrinate women and children who they use as suicide bombers in the theatre of operations. In the conduct of their operations, troops arrest these children while attempting to detonate explosives and provide tacit support to insurgents such as intelligence on troops’ movement and deployments.
“Contrary to HRW claims, however, the AFN manages children in the North East theatre as victims of war and not as suspects. Apprehended children are kept in secured places, where they are adequately fed, profiled and de-radicalized before their release.”
The statement added that only profiled Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists are held in detention pending their prosecution by appropriate prosecuting agencies.
It also stated that another set of children are the ones found with some adult female Boko Haram terrorists arrested in terrorists’ enclaves during combat, and in such cases, the women opt to keep their children rather than hand them over to relations.
“While the female terrorists are kept in the detention facility, their children are given protected care in a welfare holding facility, not a detention facility, where they could be accessed by their mothers under supervision by female personnel. The children are provided with regular feeding, clothing, requisite medical attention, in-house spiritual and educational tutoring and other welfare needs.
“The DHQ, therefore, wishes to state that no children are kept and tortured in any detention facility. The children caught in the act of terrorism are moved to safe facilities such as the Borno State Rehabilitation Centre in Bulunkutu, Maiduguri, and Operation SAFE CORRIDOR, where they are de-radicalized, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. Those whose families could not be traced are handed over to IDP Camps officials for administration.”
The DHQ also maintained that terrorists and insurgents killed in combat cannot be regarded as extrajudicial killing.
“The AFN is a professional military with extant doctrines and Standard Operating procedures, hence, extrajudicial killing or summary execution is an aberration and not permissible in our operational engagements.”
The United Nations on Wednesday launched a virtual reality experience called ‘Holding On’ to tell the stories of those who have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency which is now in its 10th year.
The exhibition which is open to the public is billed to last from August 1 to 15, 2019, and is also in commemoration of the World Humanitarian Day which comes up on August 19.
Attendees get to watch 360 videos that would give them a feel of the deplorable conditions that the internally displaced persons face in Nigeria.
Speaking at the event, the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buini, called for more assistance as the states in the northeast begin the process of reconstruction as well as rehabilitation of over 1.8 million persons displaced by the Book Haram insurgency.