The dreaded and deadly Boko Haram has been weakened but certainly not defeated by the Nigerian forces.
This was the verdict of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambers.
The envoy told journalists, yesterday, in Maiduguri during the two-day Lake Chad Governors’ Forum for Regional Cooperation on stabilisation, peace-building and sustainable development, that Boko Haram still constituted a grave threat to the stability and survival of people in the Lake Chad region.
Ibn Chambers who spoke against the backdrop of several claims by the Federal Government that the insurgents have been completely defeated, advised that the fight against the insurgents needed to be pursued.
In February, Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Rogers Nicholas said troops had completely defeated the Boko Haram insurgents.
Nicholas, who spoke during the inauguration of the Nigeria-Cameroun Military Joint Mission in Maiduguri, disclosed that troops under the operation Deep Punch II, had dislodged and occupied the insurgents’ tactical ground “Camp Zairo.”
“My soldiers are in the heart of Boko Haram enclave that is ‘Camp Zairo”, the gallant troops have taken total control of Sambisa Forest. We have broken the heart and soul of Shekau’s group, taking over the camp and its environs. They are on the run and we are pursuing them to wherever they go. This time around, there is no place for escape anywhere.
“We had earlier asked those of them that want to surrender to do so and we are still asking them to come out and surrender otherwise they are going to meet it the hard way.”
Last week, Nigeria had also told the UN General Assembly in New York that the Boko Haram terrorists had been so beaten that they no longer hold any territory.
“Nigeria has had her fair share of these crises when, amongst other vices. Boko Haram insurgents annexed 14 Local Governments in Borno in the North East of Nigeria. However, on assumption of office in 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari ensured the recovery of the annexed territories. Today, Boko Haram insurgents no longer hold any territory in Nigeria,” Nigeria’s Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Samson Itegboje, had declared while presenting Nigeria’s message at the “High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace” at the UN headquarters.
But speaking, yesterday, in Maiduguri, Ibn Chambers said: “Boko Haram is by no means defeated but certainly weakened.”
However, he noted that the Forum of the Governors of Lake Chad Basin region were encouraged by the reports and presentation from the Field Commander of the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor during the technical session.
He assured that the UN and international community would continue to support the region to ensure Boko Haram insurgents were routed in the Lake Chad.
Commenting on why the Maiduguri forum would make a difference than previous regional discourses and engagements, Chambers said the two-day forum was to establish more synergy among political leaders at the state level, the UN efforts and the affected communities.
“Today’s initiative on the part of the government is to see how, at the local level, they can begin to collaborate together with the consequences of Boko Haram terrorism and violence and that means in the area of humanitarian development and reintegration. One of the important efforts is bringing back life to the people, creating livelihood for the people and the best way to do that is through the governors of the Lake Chad region. This is why the UN is here with large delegation,” he explained.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representative in Nigeria, Edward Kallon said more needed to be done on the humanitarian situation in the Lake Chad area despite progress made on the security. He urged the forum to develop good strategies that would ensure effective participation of local communities to define pathways to the crisis.
“We must further enhance cooperation around stabilisation, peace-building and conflict prevention. This crisis cannot be solved through a unitary approach. We must pursue a multi-pronged approach-humanitarian, development, peace and counter-terrorism,” he said.
The forum was attended by governors Kashim Shettima and Jubrilla Bindow of Borno and Adamawa states respectively, governors from the northern regions of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, UN special envoys in Africa, traditional rulers, top military officers and other security agencies among others.