Coalition of Civil Society Organisations on Human Rights and Conflict Resolution in Nigeria has described the military’s efforts against terrorism as a journey on course.
The group of 20 CSOs at a press conference yesterday in Maiduguri, Borno State capital, said despite frantic efforts by the terrorists to regroup around the borders and attack the troops, the military still remained committed and coordinated in the fight.
After a tour of the North East where the military is trying to mop up the remnants of terrorists, the group observed that the troops deserve some accolades.
In the course of the tour, representatives of the CSOs reportedly interacted with the army, the civilian joint task force, traditional rulers, government officials, residents and other critical stakeholders on the ground. They observed the areas of operation first hand and compared the reality on the ground with images and reports in the media.
Maxwell Gowon, executive director of the coalition, told the press that the people commended the military for not only defeating Boko Haram in their communities, but for concerted efforts to ensure that the terrorists were unable to regroup to make life difficult for them.
“Despite this high level of success the army has achieved so far, troops have not relented on their pursuit of the terrorists who now operate majorly from outside Nigeria.
“The terrorists have ramped up the exploitation of filial and communal links to obtain intelligence on troops’ movement, which they then capitalise on to launch attacks. The recent attempt to ambush a military convoy fits this pattern,” Gowon said.
According to him, there is a failure of the state and local governments to marshal the needed political will to rebuild the affected areas. This, he said, has contributed in large part to the ease with which Boko Haram is able to recruit members of such communities.
“In instances where the displaced persons from such communities are yet to return, the abandoned spaces provide safe havens for terrorists that are able to pose as villagers to evade identification.
“There is room to further improve the coordination between the various branches of the military to derive a formidable force that will easily mop up whatever is left of the terrorists,” he advised.
Gowon added that there should be an engagement of people living in the affected areas, including awareness campaigns, to impress on them the need to obstruct any form of support for terrorists, since it was not in the interest of anyone.
His words: “Department of State Services (DSS) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) should expand their strategic surveillance for on-the-spot intelligence gathering across the North East and Nigeria’s neighbouring countries.
“The Nigerian Police Force should re-organise and re-purpose its Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and Mobile Force units to take over civil policing in towns and villages in the North East.
“All local councils in the North East, especially Borno, must be fully re-established to start implementing the mandates of that tier of government as a means of filling the vacuum that currently exists in these areas.”
The group therefore urged Nigeria to extract a stronger commitment from neigbouring countries like Niger, Chad and Cameroon to support the war against terrorism.