In the more than sixteen years of return to democracy, Nigeria has continued to experience ethno – religious and inter-communal strife. But the most predominant threat and driving force behind the insecurity in Nigeria is the terror network Jamāʻat Ahl as-Sunnah lid-daʻwa wal- Jihād or better known as Boko Haram.
Successive government efforts to check the activities of this terrorist organisation are without any significant success. The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan employed a combination of failed dialogue and intensive military action to curtail their activities. Initial military action succeeded in pushing the organization out of the major cities in Nigeria as evidenced by the drop in attacks in major city centres across Nigeria. However, the terrorist found an operational base in the forest of Sambisa and outside the borders of Nigeria from which frequent cross-border attacks are launched on poorly secured villages along the border and in neighbouring nations of Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
The sect’s actions – which focus primarily, but not exclusively, on three North-Eastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa – are characterized by attacks on civilian populations, the military and police, and federal and state infrastructure. The frequency, reach, and intensity of these violent terrorist attacks increased in the course of 2013 and 2015. The State of Emergency was imposed on the three North-Eastern states to enable security forces to conduct counter-insurgency operations against the group. This step resulted in marginal reductions in incidences of violence and relative improvement in security in urban centres but not in remote villages and towns.
The North East region of Nigeria was one of the economically promising regions of the country in the first and second republics (1960-1983). At its peak, it was the centre of trade and commerce with prominent local enterprises thriving in the region. The region drew in entrepreneurs, technocrats and bureaucrats from other regions in Nigeria. Its growing natural resource base drove its investment and industrial potential. In those days, the region enjoyed religious, cultural and ethnic harmony as well as relative prosperity.
Over the years and following decades of neglect in governance and a decline in productive investment, North East Nigeria became the epitome of insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria. Pervasive violent extremism has diminished economic activities in the region resulting in the out-migration of non-indigenes, skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and indigenes and relocation of their economic activities outside the region. Most of the local businesses have closed down with a near collapse of the agricultural sector as the country increasingly depends on rent from oil and gas sector. This conflict-driven population migration or involuntary movement of people has exacerbated unemployment and poverty conditions in the North East region – driving these parameters above the national average.
It is estimated that up to 11 million Nigerians who live in the North East states have been affected by the insecurity, with Borno alone accounting for about 4 million. Well over 3,500 people have been killed since January 2014 in dozens of attacks across the North East and sporadic but intensive suicide bombing attacks in Kano, Jos and Bauchi. The prevailing insecurity has displaced up to 350,000 persons, with cross-border implications in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. It has also severely impacted the population’s livelihoods and social support systems. The displaced population are living mostly in host communities further straining pre-existing poverty conditions in those communities and placing pressure on scarce resources such as arable land. An estimated 4.2 million people are food insecure and Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Level 3 was expected by the United Nations and other development partners operating in the Northeastern states. Service provisions, particularly health services and education, have been affected. At present, a number of health facilities in some affected Local Government Areas (LGAs) are considered non-functional. (United Nations Integrated Support Package for the North East 2014)
The brazen abduction of over 200 school-age girls in Chibok, Borno, on 14 April 2014 and the bombing of the UN House in Abuja received wide condemnation and were adjudged as flagrant violations of basic human rights. However, the deadly attacks continued unabated across the North East and further afield, including car bomb explosions on the outskirts of Abuja, and central Jos, Plateau States. These exposed the Government of President Goodluck Jonathan to significant domestic and international pressure to act swiftly against this group and to secure the release of these abducted young women.
The recent months following the inception of the new administration have witnessed a surge in violent attacks and alleged human rights violations as the government intensifies its military offensive against the group Since the inception of the insurgency, the government has made a persistent effort to respond with military offensive supported with less intensive effort in dialogue with the group.
However, any dispassionate observer wouldn’t fail noticing the ineffectiveness of the current military strategy designed to tackle this security threat. Every gain in successive military offensive has been wiped out with corresponding suicide bombing of soft targets or violent reprisal against remote villages by Boko Haram cells planted mostly behind military offensive lines. The engagements of local vigilante groups as well as the alleged use of foreign mercenaries are pointers to the difficult challenges confronting the Nigerian armed forces in its efforts to effectively defeat this group.
The critical ingredient lacking in the government’s effort to respond to the insurgency is the absence of a clearly articulated comprehensive strategic framework in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency. Such strategy should comprise, in part, a definitive political objective from the perspective of national security and from which is deduced military tactical responses, the concept of operation and rules of engagement.
If the strategic objective of the government is to militarily degrade and defeat this group, then, that will require a distinctive set of rules of engagement and concept of operation by the military both in the long and short term. Conversely, if the strategic objective of the government is to politically resolve and negotiate a cessation of violence and resolution to the crisis, then a different military concept of operations and rules of engagement would be required both in the short and long term. This will also influence the sophistication and complexity of arms and weaponry required and intensity of deployment of military capability and the depth of operations. Ordinarily, deployment is influenced on a graduated scale of the perceived threat and serves as a deterrent to violation of national security. The current military operations lend no credible indications of purpose and objective other than to defeat the insurgency. This poses a huge dilemma for the army as the war is mostly internal and executed by local national actors within the region and with variegated external support. Increasing reports on high civilian causalities and allegations of violations of human rights by the military are the consequences of a lack of strategic purpose.
In the context of a civil or conventional war, the Nigerian Army has the capability to defeat this group. However, this is an insurgency war being carried out by a terrorist group embedded within the civilian population and within our national boundaries. Therefore, the latitude of the military for forceful engagement is highly constrained.
The modus operandi adopted by Boko Haram is different; their strategic intent is very amorphous; and their tactical focus is evidently unpredictable. Reinforcing these added advantages over the military is the fact that, its command structure is very consistent with its strategy and aligned with the type of war they are fighting. And from operational and tactical balance, their weapons are lighter but deadly and they are faster to mobilise and deploy for effectiveness.
Compared with our military, they hold tactical and strategic advantages in the nature of this conflict. They don’t hold territory. And when they do so, it is only to divert attention to enable them to carry out suicide bombings in locations not covered by the military and also to source supplies. With the capacity to infiltrate and create dormant cells and activate them when needed, Boko Haram has evolved a complex network of credible capacity to undermine our national security in the event of further protraction of this conflict.
An understanding of the structure of this group will offer insight into the difficulties of military operations and why political negotiation is the best option. Terrorist or insurgency groups are mostly structured as follows; at the top is the political leadership which drives and provides the political impetus for the insurgency. They could be made up of a group of people or one dominant person. This group also mobilises resources to fund the insurgency. They can be within the public domain or hidden and operating from the background.
The next layer is the top military commander who is usually the face of the insurgency and takes instructions from the top political leadership of the group. This is the spot occupied by Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram and the Sam Bokari of the RUF and Bin Laden of Al Qaida etc. These are usually the targets for counter-insurgency and are easily replaced when assassinated or killed in combat. Below the top military commander are arrays of horizontally differentiated command cells and units that are headed by the strategic core of middle-rank commanders. These are the group that carries out most of the terror attacks and are embedded mostly within the communities. Then the next group is the operational or tactical core. These are the foot soldiers that carry out the actual terror attacks. The strategic core that heads these differentiated field cells operates with relative independence.
Most of the effort of the military has been on the top military commander and his fighters. Even if the top commander is killed, a replacement is easily found from the strategic core.
Terrorist groups that consolidate the military leadership with the political leadership are easily destroyed once that leader is killed or assassinated but those that differentiate and separate these two structures are usually difficult to destroy. Boko Haram has the latter structure – a hidden political leadership but an evident top military commander supported by a horizontally differentiated but embedded strategic core of middle-rank commanders. However, developing strategic responses that deplete the source of recruitment weakens the tactical or operational core of the group. Such can be done by a combination of targeted military operations and a system of disinformation and economic assistance programs. There are no indications that the current strategy reflects this approach.
Furthermore, any negotiation with this group must always test if the political will can be translated into command and control otherwise no agreement reached can be implemented by the top military command. This explains why you can hear that an agreement has been reached with the group but then within the next hour follows successive spate of bombings to indicate that no agreement was reached!
It is instructive to note that the opportunities to have curtailed or defeated this group at inception were lost early in the crisis by the irresponsible partisan politicisation of the crisis and the absence of leadership for decisive action. These factors allowed the group to fester and grow in complexity and sophistication far beyond what our national security apparatus and military capacity can deal with all alone.
Defeating home-grown insurgency groups has historically proven to be difficult. And experience in many countries such as Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Peru, Colombia, Spain, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel etc shows that the army has never defeated guerrilla insurgency. Countries that have done so have resorted to a combination of intensive military operations and concerted political negotiation directed at resolving the conflict. In such cases, the strategic objective of the military action is to force the group to negotiate. However, nations that have persisted with military option only, have had to contend with protracted armed resistance at significant cost to national revenue and human life. Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq and Spain are typical examples. Some of these countries like Peru, which later adopted a combination of military, political negotiation and economic development strategy, have made greater success. Colombia has recently adopted this strategy.
Boko Haram cannot be allowed to remain a festering sore on our collective sense of national security, peace and stability. The longer this conflict protracts, it mutates in complexity and variance of attacks such as hostage of hotels and tourism facilities by a small band of armed groups as was the case in the Taj Maha Hotel in India or Tunisia of a recent, bombing of a congested road traffics during rush hours etc.
The effectiveness of the Nigerian army is even more compromised by corruption, weak leadership, awesome presence of “fifth horsemen”, and inconsistency in command structure as well as the absence of coherent rules of engagement. The army has got to contend with allegations of brutality against local communities and severe criticisms from Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations as well as local organised Civil Society. The military can’t fight on both fronts! For the army to make an appreciable impact over this group it has to become and operate like them – the army has to become a guerrilla army – an ugly prospect no reasonable nation will contemplate.
The military needs to be supported by smart political and civil affairs officers whose focus would be on assisting manage the military-civilian relationships in the region as well provide proactive information on the outcome of every operation. This group will help counter allegations of human rights abuses by the military; provide informed civilian face to the military operation and articulate the credible position of the military thereby reducing questions of source credibility.
Nations don’t arm their armies to fight and kill their people. Our army is established to protect and defend the territorial integrity of the country and to ward off external aggression. The use of the army in engaging in home-grown terrorism represents a forced option due to the failure of successive governments to cultivate and develop effective national security institutions in response to emerging contemporary security challenges.
Years of underfunding of the national police and other specialised security agencies such as the mobile police forces and intelligence agencies by the government have resulted in the overuse of the army – our last defence bastion – in all sorts of policing and internal security challenges. The government’s response to this vacuum is the use of aberrant institutional arrangements known as the Joint Task Force. The JTF is an institutional nightmare whose only focus is to create a common structure for sharing security votes. The nation is littered with a series of Joint Task Forces which have failed in accomplishing the set objectives underlining their establishment. On the contrary, they have become permanent features of our national security framework and very steep in corruption that local communities particularly in the Niger Delta abhor their presence.
A protracted insurgency conflict will see the military risk compromising its integrity through infiltration. Its legitimacy as an institution, eroded as more and more civilian causalities are recorded. This will result in its credibility being questioned by local and international stakeholders. The cumulative outcome will be, declining morale among the rank and file of the armed forces, weakening of trust in leadership and lack of support from the affected communities. Reports of mutiny and reluctance by the soldiers to engage Boko Haram is one of the pointers to declining morale in the military due to erosion of honour. When honour is absent in military leadership, troop mutiny is inevitable.
The recent use of local vigilante groups is a pointer to a lack of confidence in the communities and a prospect fraught with future risk. These groups may provide assistance with regard to knowledge of local terrains and support military operations in the short term; however, they may become the next boko haram or may team up with them against the army in the long run. They will also become difficult to disarm and demobilise in the event of cessation of hostilities. Untrained groupings usually resist relinquishing power after tasting its benefit. Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan evolved out of a similar arrangement during the war with the Soviets and so also the kamajors of Serra Leone who became more difficult within the context of the conflict in that country.
The answer to ending this insurgency lies within a comprehensive political negotiation facilitated by reliable external mediation arrangement and anchored on credible guarantors trusted by both parties. It is tough and time-consuming work but it is achievable. It may not be the most palatable and generally acceptable option but it is the most reasonably expedient option which demands unwavering political leadership and will.
The government should persist in exploring options for intensive political negotiation to resolve this conflict. The tasking and challenging nature of this option is the reason most people resort to the military option. Invariably the military option in itself presents an asymmetrical response which compounds the conflict. The military cannot be used to resolve a conflict that is political nor can the military effectively engage an amorphous local armed group with a horizontally differentiated command and control structure targeting unspecified locations. Political negotiation remains the most optimal strategy for guaranteeing sustained peace and security in the region and for the country. Amnesty may definitely be granted regardless of how some people may feel about it. We are not contending with the legitimacy of rights but more with acquired rights. The issue isn’t justice. The issue is peace and security.
Therefore, it is against this background that the series of visits by the new President to neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon are vital. But the objective of these visits must not only be to secure military cooperation frameworks but also to provide the nascent platform for a concerted and coordinated international and regional political framework for resolving the crisis.
Nigeria must take leadership in defining the strategy and then secure the regional and international bilateral and multilateral support required to bring an end to this conflict. The nation can’t go seeking help without a clearly defined strategy. This was probably the major difficulty encountered by the previous administration, which, failing to articulate a clear strategy could not mobilise the support needed from lead-bilateral nations. The present government must establish a team of dedicated Nigerians working on this assignment with clear terms of reference and a specific time frame. This is not a task for partisan politicians or bureaucrats in government who are comfortable with the process as opposed to the results. The embarrassing lack o experience was demonstrated under the previous administration when a senior government spokesperson rushed to announce to the country and the whole world that an agreement was reached with Boko- Haram without validating the legitimacy of the group purportedly representing Boko Haram nor caring to demand that political-will be demonstrated by the release of the chibok girls.
This is not a task for partisan politicians or bureaucrats in government who are comfortable with the process as opposed to the results.
Nigeria has highly qualified and experienced citizens who have worked with the United Nations or other multilateral international agencies with expertise in negotiating with insurgency groups. Most have served as Special Representatives for the Secretary General of the United Nations and can bring their expertise and network of contacts in facilitating the political negotiation process. The government should reach out to this pool of expertise and harness its experience. It is also inconceivable that Nigerian cannot find prominent northern politicians and religious leaders who have the capacity to identify the political leadership of Boko-Haram or their proxies for the purposes of initiating a negotiation process. The new president has access and assets to locate help from the political and religious leaders of the north. President Yar’Adua demonstrated this with regard to the Niger Delta Amnesty. There is no doubt that the current President has the clout too.
This war cannot be everybody’s war to lead. It is a war Nigeria must lead to win with the support of relevant stakeholders. Government must be clear in the role it wants the regional actors to play as well as those of the international bilateral and multilateral actors. A strategically layered approach is relevant in this context. The regional partners could play a vital role in providing intelligence, cutting off supply sources, denying them bases and participating in a joint military operation. Some may opt to play a political role in facilitating the mediation process. Such nations shouldn’t be coerced into military operations as their neutrality will be an asset in facilitating the mediation process.
The international bilateral nations can also provide sophisticated equipment for intelligence, tracing the origin of weaponry, and training and cutting off international finance to Boko Haram. Some may use their good relations to put pressure on the regional partners to play a vital role. France is in a good position to play this role considering its historical ties with Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Some other nations may act as guarantors and custodians for any agreement reached with Boko Haram. These will include countries that can bear considerable pressure on the identified political leadership of Boko Haram and the Nigerian government to ensure parties fulfil their respective commitment under any agreement that may be negotiated.
It is significant that in his inaugural speech, President Buhari touched on the critical challenge of insecurity in the North East and with regard to the Boko Haram insurgency. He did indicate the relocation of the military operation base from Abuja to Borno. This step sounds reasonable with tactical and operational advantages. For one, it demonstrates ground presence. However from a long-term strategic perspective, much needs to be done. Recognizing that this speech doesn’t represent the fullness of the administration’s strategy for tackling the menace of Boko Haram, there is, however, the risk of underestimating the complexity of the conflict in this region.
The Presidency need not make the mistake of conceiving that military operation alone will sufficiently deal with this challenge. There is considerable concern that the background and experience of this presidency may predispose the government to this error. The group is a lot more complex and has festered longer than Maitasine and has grown in sophistication and with a complex network of operational and tactical capabilities. The group has dormant cells in the country which makes one wonder if they relocate to any other part of the country, will the government also relocate its command and operational HQ? This is unrealistic and comes at a huge set-up cost.
According to World Development Report published by the World Bank 2011, most conflicts cost an average developing country roughly 30 years of GDP growth and in a protracted crisis, most fall over 20 percentage points behind in overcoming poverty. Nigeria shouldn’t be in this unenviable position. It is expensive buying peace but more costly to fight a futile and endless war. The economic and social cost of this insurgency is yet to be determined but it doesn’t require too much economic analysis for anyone to begin to appreciate the cost the nation is incurring in this conflict and its implication on its economic outlook. Recently the country has had to borrow US1 billion to provide the military with the necessary equipment required. A report by the Institute of Economics and Peace projects the cost of violence containment in Nigeria at 5.5% of its GDP and this may increase to 8 or 10% of the GDP given the current military expenditure requirements in the event of a protracted escalation of the conflict.
The Northeast has been a source of major agricultural food supplies including fish, grains and other vegetables. The average cost of fresh tomatoes has increased by more than 150% since the escalation of the insurgency. Interestingly every truckload of agricultural produce from this region could potentially be carrying arms to support the establishment of terrorist cells in other parts of the country. Insecurity in the region coupled with severe security checkpoints is a major constraint for the movement of people, goods and services.
The broad strategic framework required in dealing with this menace will include credible military deterrent and offensive capability as well as a comprehensive socio-economic development framework for the region. The stick must be strong and credible so also the carrot must be attractive. Both of these must be anchored on evolving political frameworks with demonstrated political will to resolve this conflict. The political will must be mobilized and demonstrated between and among every political divide in this nation. The era of partisan politicking with regard to Boko Haram must stop.
Some people have erroneously perceived negotiation as capitulation and rewarding terrorism. They point to countries that have a policy of non-negotiations with terrorist organisations but they overlook one major difference – these countries do negotiate with internal terrorist organisations but not external ones. And only use specialised units to counter internal terrorism after negotiations have failed. These countries also have extensive networks of intelligence capability to reinforce national security systems. The Nigerian government must make this subtle distinction in its policy towards dealing with Boko Haram. Talks of outright military victory over this group may play to the fancy of political constituents but serious background work, based on a realistic appreciation of the challenges, must commence immediately. While the government need not negotiate from a position of weakness, it is its responsibility to initiate the negotiation process or create conditions that will bring Boko Haram to the negotiation table. Failing to do so, will amount to irresponsible governance and missed opportunities for strategic and bold leadership.
As one of the key elements of any comprehensive strategy by the government, a detailed socio-economic development strategy should respond to alleviating the poverty conditions in the region.
Various studies indicate a multiplicity of factors that led to the rise of terrorism in North East Nigeria. Some of these factors include low levels of education, religious and cultural extremism, corruption of public officials and its impact on development, limited access to credit and finance for enterprise development, limited entrepreneurial culture, over-reliance on federal funds, and the perceived exclusion of the people in the way they are governed etc.
Antecedent conditions to the conflict must be addressed to neutralize the drivers of the insurgency. The vicious cycle of economic hardship has become the most pertinent public policy challenge in present-day Nigeria. The government must recognize the insufficiency of the dual approach of limited political dialogue and intensive military action. Consequently, there is a dominant need for a comprehensive social and economic development strategy to complement the military and political strategy. This must recognize and respond to the complexity of the problem in its design and implementation. In addition, the strategy should address the challenges of underdevelopment in the region and reinforce the dual strategy for peace and stability in the North East. It is evident that peace and security cannot be achieved nor sustained in an environment of depressed economic conditions and social despair.
It was against this backdrop that the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) under the previous government initiated the development of a North-East Economic Transformation Initiative with support from a lead bilateral agency. The preliminary initiative aimed to develop a framework of ideas to coalesce and catalyze federal government efforts to revitalize the economies of North East Nigeria. The initiative recognized that the affected states cannot be left to deal with the issues on their own; rather, the framework called for close collaboration between the local, state, federal, government development agencies, private sector and well-intentioned citizens.
Unfortunately, as this process was being promoted, a parallel development framework was commissioned by the former governors of the states of the North East under the leadership of a former Minister. Such a parallel process reflected the deep divide between the past federal government and the governors of the states in the North East. Compounding this process was the role of who should control the finance and funding for the initiative. This pitched the Ministry of Finance and the various government agencies into critical battles over the administration of the funding for the potential program for the Northeast. There shouldn’t be any parallel process under this dispensation. There must be one concerted and coherent process anchored on a credible institutional framework and reporting directly to the presidency.
It is imperative that a distinction be made between program development and implementation management and financial management and procurement as well as Monitoring and Evaluation frameworks. The program succeeds to the extent it is anchored on a credible and transparently accountable governance framework. The inability to evolve a credible governance framework for most programs in the country accounts for the significant failures of strategic interventions in the country. This must be avoided under evolving North East social and economic development strategy.
A credible governance framework must be one that separates program development and implementation management from Financial and Contract Management and procurement as well as Monitoring and evaluation. Any social and economic development strategy for the North East must seek to establish a governance framework that separates these three elements for ease of account management and for delivering development results.
Such institutional arrangements must be receptive to developing partnerships with a whole range of interested development partners. Nigerian bureaucrats have a penchant to close the doors to eternal development support by being opaque in their financial management system. A tremendous amount of resources will be required and one may not rule out the option of a Trust fund mechanism with contributions from various partners and manage by an independent firm of financial managers. This option looks likely given the declining revenue and the need for government to seek external support to complement domestic funding. Government must insist on an institutional arrangement that must deliver development results. Any social and economic development funding for the Northeast should not be an opportunity for the elites from that region to enrich themselves along the line of the embarrassing culture of theft and non-performance that has been the bane of development in the Niger Delta.
The starting point for the socio-economic development strategy for the region must be an area-based needs assessment, covering area-by-area mapping of local communities and their respective needs, the development of emergency humanitarian assistance for the vulnerable population such as women, young girls and the elderly, the formulation and initiation of immediate security stabilization measures targeting high-risk population groups such as unemployed youths, former fighters and the initiation of medium and long term development program targeting reconstruction of community social and physical infrastructure and promotion of alternative livelihood systems such as agro-income generating activities, SME and food security.
The following could consist of integral elements of the social and economic development strategy, (A) Social Programmes; Employment creation, Enterprise development: Agriculture and food security, Youth Empowerment and inclusiveness Initiative, community security stabilization initiative, Tertiary Education Initiative, Community-based social action Initiative (B) Infrastructure Projects; reconstruction and development of roads, Rehabilitation of affected communities: Restoration of basic social services in healthcare, water and sanitation:
The proposed development strategy and programs would complement the current national development policy of the federal government and reflect consistency with the overall national security objective for the region. It would intensively address the development challenges and priorities of the North East region as an essential and integral component of the strategy of the federal government to stabilize the security condition in the region. It should tackle the challenges of poverty, minimize income disparity, promote inclusive growth, and address infrastructure deficits and their impact on food security for the region. This is in addition to the complex challenges of limited institutional processes and systems of governance in the region. Above all, it would be conceived as contributing to the overall security stabilization and improvement in the quality of life for communities and target populations of the various states in North East Nigeria.
While this evidence suggests a multi-sector strategy, the design must focus on those sectors that are catalytic and hold the potential for significant growth and maximum impact within the region. However, the overarching rationale must be to address the development challenges in the North East by promoting meaningful and sustained improvement in the quality of life in the region. Careful planning is essential given the complexity of the situation.
Furthermore, situations of insecurity and violence demand that economic planning cannot be within the medium and long-term horizon as obtainable under normal development planning. Rather, planning has to be expedient and incremental, recognizing that the intervention may not be the most efficient. Therefore, it is expedient that program intervention strategy must be phased into short-term quick wins to demonstrate government commitment to the target populations in North East that the federal government is concerned about over the development of the region. Thereafter, the carefully planned medium to long-term initiatives will ensure sustainable development in the region. However, the quick wins must be structured as part of the longer-term initiatives. In fact, they should be seen as the short-term components of medium/long-term initiatives.
The following design principles and considerations should guide the formulation of the social and economic development strategy:
• Gap Identification: The development strategy must identify gaps within the development priorities of the various states in the region and must recognize differing starting points and needs of the various states and communities in the region.
• Regional Planning Tools: It must apply regional development planning tools such as spatial mapping of needs in the region, rapid appraisal methodologies etc, in the formulation of the programmes as well as suggest cross-border initiatives to respond to increasing sub-regional dimensions to the security challenges in the North East.
• Equity and Regional Sensitivity: The design process must be guided by equity principles to avoid exacerbating geo-political and social inequity in the region. This is also to cultivate cultural and religious sensitivity with the target population of the region.
• Transparency and Accountability Framework: The design process must integrate systems of accountability and transparency in the program governance framework.
• Area-based and Area-specific Planning: The approach in the design must demonstrate area-based planning which promotes targeting intervention measures to respond to the specific needs of the specific target population in a clearly defined location area.
• Participatory Approach: The design and planning as well as implementation must be rooted in the principle of broad stakeholder participation at state, local government and community levels.
• Flexibility in targeted and demand-driven Approach: The delivery strategy must strike a balance between the need to meet the needs of specific high-risk and vulnerable groups as well as promote the capacity for social action.
Finally retooling strategic responses to resolve the insurgency and restoring peace and security as preconditions for development remains a strategic option the federal government must pursue with the rigour and vigour of dedicated staff of multi-disciplinary teams. Re-evaluation of options is an essential part of responsible governance when the will and leadership are evident. A robust military deployment capability, a dedicated capacity for political dialogue and a comprehensive socio-economic development program – all anchored on demonstrated political will, constitute a comprehensive and concerted strategic response towards resolving the insurgency in the North-East – a viable and tested option the government must pursue.
By Charles Chidi Achodo: Charles Achodo is an expert in social and economic development programs, Peace development issues and Security Sector Reform. He has experience working with the German Agency for Technical Co-operation, the Post-conflict unit of the World Bank and the United Nations/UNDP/BCPR. He has worked in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Somalia, Ethiopia, DRC, Sierra Leone and Liberia. He currently consults for governments and other development agencies and has participated in several peace negotiations in Africa. – C_achodo@yahoo.com, +2348137202284, +231888001350
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