30,000 Boko Haram casualties in 10 years: Utilising soft instruments to tackle root causes

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Difficulties to exterminate the strings of extremism in Nigeria have continued to keep conundrums in view as the Government continue to struggle with the  aggression of fundamentalism, banditry and terrorism. The heightening of variants of insecurity mayhem amid  struggles of the Government have brought into bear the submission of the need to change the orientation of the approach towards tackling the menace by the framework of addressing the root causes of the scourge. Hence, the call has become resounding following the failure of force operations to nib the scourge into the bud. The extension of the networks of terrorism and banditry with expansive strings of increasing recruitment of membership has justified the need to turn to the soft instruments of fighting the rousing phenomena against the overarching hardware of force.

On Monday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had made a strong notation that fighting terrorism would only be futile without addressing the root causes. The Vice ECOWAS, Ms. Finda Koroma at the inauguration of the Early Warning Study on the Spillover of Violent Extremism to ECOWAS Coastal Member States, in Abuja on Monday, had said fighting terrorism within the region is an illusion without attacking its root causes. According to her, such root causes include bad or in some cases, weak governance, poverty, youth unemployment and human rights abuses. She had mentioned that data from the ECOWAS Alert and Response Network (ECOWARN) showed terrorist incidents perpetrated by Boko Haram alone resulted in more than 30,000 deaths in less than 10 years of subversive activities. This, according to her, was in addition to the physical attacks on the populations and the territorial integrity of ECOWAS’ member states. Koroma lamented that terrorism had left unprecedented humanitarian consequences, with more than three million people displaced in the sub region.

She was quoted, “The ECOWAS Commission understands that, it would be illusionary to fight against terrorism without attacking its root causes, such as bad or in some cases, weak governance, poverty, youth unemployment and human rights abuses.

“This need to address the root causes of violent extremism was specifically mentioned by the United Nations Secretary-General in his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism of December 2015. This Plan of Action asserts that structural factors such as the lack of prospects for youth or unemployment, contribute largely to their adherence to the agenda of terrorist groups which they find attractive and therefore consider as an alternative likely to offer a better tomorrow for them. With regard to these root causes in the prevention and the fight against terrorism, the ECOWAS Commission has made the ‘nexus’ between security and development its major area of focus, amongst others.

“After North-East of Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin, the Sahel, the Nothern Part of Mali, the threats escalated in the Liptako-Gourma region, made up of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. From the North of Mali and Burkina Faso violent extremist groups conducted years back, attacks in the southern part of these members states. Since 2019, the southwestern regions of Burkina Faso have seen an escalation of jihadist presence from JNIM’s Katibat Macina, who are present in the Cascades region and in the forests along the Ivorian border. This explains why Côte d’Ivoire saw a major escalation of violent extremism throughout 2020, including its first jihadist attacks since the 2016 Grand Bassam incident. We all remember the Park W Pendjari abduction in Benin.”

In Nigeria, with indices of notes showing deep negativities, it is only reflective that the underlying factors informing the turn of more people to be easily influenced into courses of aggression to make ends meet, or better still in protests against prevailing harsh conditions, have become potent.    In its latest report on inflation, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had on Tuesday (15th November 2021), disclosed that the annual food inflation rate rose for the 24th consecutive month to 20.75 per cent in October from 20.71 per cent in September, owing to further increases in the prices of basic food items. The Consumer Price Index (CPI)  and Inflation Report for October 2021, by the Bureau stated thus: “This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of food products, coffee, tea and cocoa, milk, cheese and eggs, bread and cereals, vegetables and potatoes, yam and other tubers.”     While, the NBS report showed that the annual Headline Inflation rate continued on its downward trend to 15.99 per cent in October from 16.63 per cent in September, indicating a steady slow down in price increases across the Country, the heightening of food inflation has continued as the recent development revealed the food inflation rate has risen by 7.38 percentage points since May 2019 when it dropped to 13.37 per cent.

Hence, with prevailing socio-economic and political conditions reflecting over 33.3percent unemployment rate, food inflation at 20.75 per cent, with depth of worsening profile of corruption and bad governance, it is only expected that more citizens who are pressurized by the worsening conditions have become toughened and opened to be easily lured into terror activities. The more the Government resort to force to compel obedience, it is rational that securing same under the prevailing conditions may more or less be a facade. The present realities have put before the Government the need to turn to the soft instruments of interventions to address the fundamental discomforts within the socio-economic and political fabrics of notes informing the mayhem.

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