Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The United Nation (UN) on Monday advised the Federal Government of Nigeria on the need to complement military force with dialogue in the new national security strategy to tactical insecurity in the North-East, assuring of putting at the country’s disposal its deep reservoir of expertise, both in human and material resources.
The UN noted that Nigeria’s security crises are complicated with a range of typologies, saying banditry in the North-West is combined with terrorism, asking the Federal Government to deploy the tool of dialogue with force in fighting insurgency and banditry.
It disclosed that the international body has invested an average of $1.5 billion annually to support the humanitarian and development efforts of the federal government.
The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, disclosed this after leading the world body’s delegation for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
The team were on a thank-you visit to Mr Buhari, citing the country’s support for multilateralism and the rehabilitation of the UN residence in Abuja after it was attacked by terrorists in August of 2011 leading to the death of 21 people.
The UN envoy classified the security crises bedevilling the country into three, listing them as identity-based conflicts, resource-based conflicts and power-based conflicts, each of which he said required different approaches and solutions to tackle it.
According to him, the attempt to find a solution to banditry in Nigeria, for instance, is complicated as a result of its combination with terrorism, insisting that solution to this range of security crises is difficult to decipher because each of them has to be separately dealt with.
He also added that solutions to the crises must be pursued from the political, economic and social perspectives adding that the relationship among the three factors must be established in the efforts to address issues of criminality, banditry and terrorism in Nigeria.
‘The conflict is still ongoing. It’s not over. But today again, I told Mr President that in addition to the military effort, that there is a need to complement that with enhanced dialogue and political approach process in search of durable solution to the crisis,’ Mr Kallon stated.
‘So, we think various approaches have to be used to find a solution. But when you talk about conflicts in Nigeria, we are talking about three typologies.
‘There is no one size fits all. You have identity-based conflicts, resource-based and power-based conflicts. Each of those typologies requires different approaches and solutions. That is the complex axis we are dealing with.
‘In the North-West, you have the situation of banditry that is mixed up with some elements of terrorism which makes it even more complex. And there is also power based-conflict that is ongoing. So, because of the mixture of these typologies within Nigeria itself, that is why it is so difficult to find solutions to them because you have to deal with each of them.
‘But underneath all these beehives of conflicts dynamics, there are three dynamics that before a solution is found, we must look at the political, economy and social context that are so critical in finding a solution. The relationship between those three factors remains extremely important when you start looking at the issue of criminality, banditry and terrorism. So, my call to His Excellency is to look at that robust mechanisms as a way of trying to find solutions to the conflicts in general,’ he said.
Kallon also spoke on the humanitarian crisis in the North-East, recalling that at the beginning of the insurgency in the region, it was impossible to gain access to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps, pointing out that even though the situation has improved now, it is still cumbersome because IDPs ‘are still kept in garrison type of camps.’
Kallon observed that victims of the insurgency in the North-East have been unable to return to their various homes to continue with their livelihoods, advising the president to make the search for peace in the region his major commitment.
The UN representative added that in the efforts to achieve peacebuilding in the region that will bring lasting reliefs to displaced 1.2 million persons as well as 293,000 refugees in Niger, Chad and Cameroon, a framework to find a solution to the crisis in North-East must be deliberately created.
‘I have been part of this endeavour for three and half years, from the time we had no access to the affected population, to the point where we had access to the affected population who are currently in IDP camps, and that is due to the gradual improvement of security that was possible.
‘Most of you could remember at the beginning of this crisis – there was no access to the affected population because of insecurity. That element has improved over the years. Yet still, the situation is still extremely difficult in the sense that the population are still kept in garrison type of camps. People are not able to go back to undertake their normal activities to rebuild their lives and livelihood. There are periodic attacks on them by non-state armed groups.
‘So, it is quite a difficult situation at this point in time. As a result of that, we are very clear on, and I told this to Mr President, that there are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian problems and that the only solution to the North-east is peace. The only thing we can do is to ensure that in whatever we do, we prioritise prevention. We support development in areas feasible and we provide humanitarian assistance when needed.
‘In our jargons, we say we have to bridge the humanitarian development of peacebuilding as a framework to find a solution to the crisis in North-east Nigeria. The affected people especially the 1.2 million IDPs and over 293,000 refugees in Niger, Chad and Cameroon must be supported in every way,’ he said.
Kallon, speaking on the UN investments in the country, said that the UN provides the support even though it is not a financial institution.
Kallon said Nigeria should see the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen its health institutions, urging the government to put in action bold and effective changes to restructure and reform government health institutions.
‘The system of financing health, the coordination between federal and state structures, the rebuilding of quality health centres that are staffed by trained health workers with appropriate supplies are the challenges critical to building a primary health care system capable of sustaining Universal Health Coverage in all aspects of health care and need a renewed focus from leadership coupled with strengthened partnerships,’ Kallon stated.
‘I would recommend you request your government to put into action bold and effective changes to restructure and reform the Government health institutions to improve efficiency and cooperation across the board.
‘The United Nations is Nigeria’s first partner in this challenge, and we are ready to do our part.’
While noting that COVID-19 has been likened to an x-ray that has revealed fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies, he pointed out that the pandemic has laid bare risks including inadequate health systems, gaps in social protection, structural inequalities, environmental degradation and the climate crisis.
According to him, ‘we need to work together to find innovative solutions to turn this human tragedy into a generational opportunity to build back better a more equal and sustainable world.’
On the fight against corruption, the UN commended President Buhari for his resolve to reform and return discipline in the public service as well as the success in fighting corruption including the convictions and recovery of assets.
‘As you continue to strengthen institutions to fight corruption, we now also need to increase our support for grassroots and “people-centred” approach and get all members of the community involved and engaged,’ the UN envoy told the President.
He informed that based on UN assistance both to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) across the country over the last four electoral cycles, the world body has gathered enough data and experience to support government’s efforts towards leaving a legacy on the electoral processes in Nigeria.
Kallon stated further that ‘there have been commendable incremental improvements in the process since the return to democratic rule. The UN stands ready to support you in the current efforts to further improve the electoral reform process. We also salute your leadership and engagements in supporting electoral processes in West Africa.’
On the national census, Kallon noted: ‘A national census is long over-due and critical for planning and effective management of national resources and to guide strategic investments in health care, education food security, human resources and social services.’
He revealed that the UN is currently supporting the Enumeration Area Demarcation exercise and is ready and willing to continue to support such an effort at all stages and remains at the President’s disposal at all times.
The UN commended Buhari and Nigeria on the Polio Eradication achievement and the UN’s commitment to stand with Nigeria to ensure the country remains polio-free.
‘With the support of international partners over the past two decades, Nigeria has made great strides in addressing many of the killers and cripplers among us. Under-5 mortality from diarrhoea and respiratory infections, HIV, malaria, TB, and neglected tropical diseases are all in retreat. Polio is no longer endemic congratulations on a job well done.
‘This progress has been achieved through leadership and sustained investment in building human resources for health and strengthening health systems,’ he said.
President Buhari was thankful for the visit, pledging to continue to support all UN activities in the country.