Influx of arms from Russia-Ukraine war threatens Lake Chad region – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday called for more vigilance and tightened security around the Lake Chad Basin, as he drew attention to the increased number of arms, ammunition, and other weapons flowing into the region from the Russia and Ukraine war.

The President who was speaking as Chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Government, at the 16th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), in Abuja, said the threat by terrorists in the region had been relatively brought under control, while the influx of weapons poses fresh challenges.

In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President noted that despite the successes recorded by the gallant troops of the MNJTF and the various ongoing national operations in the region, terrorist threats still lurk in the region.

The region which had hitherto been ravaged by insecurity, drought and other socioeconomic challenges, is also the stronghold of the Boko Haram terrorists.

Following the economic challenges in the Chad region, over 40 million inhabitants had been forced to migrate south, putting further pressures on other communities, especially the north central region of Nigeria.

President Buhari noted that the situation in the Sahel and the raging war in Ukraine serve as major sources of weapons and fighters that bolster the ranks of the terrorists in the Lake Chad Region.

According to him, “A substantial proportion of the arms and ammunition procured to execute the war in Libya continues to find its way to the Lake Chad Region and other parts of the Sahel.
“Weapons being used for the war in Ukraine and Russia are equally beginning to filter to the region.

“This illegal movement of arms into the region has heightened the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which continues to threaten our collective peace and security in the region. There is, therefore, the urgent need for expedited collaborative actions by our border control agencies and other security services to stop the circulation of all illegal weapons in the region,” President Buhari noted.

The President said the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) deserved commendation for various operations that had brought measurable stability to the Lake Chad Basin.

He revealed that the threat of Boko Haram terrorism in the Lake Chad area no doubt brought to the fore, the imperative of enhanced collaboration among the defense forces of the region in the face of a common aggressor, adding that “I am pleased that through the Multinational Joint Task Force we responded to the challenge, proving beyond reasonable doubt that with the requisite commitment and determination, the region can solve its challenges in the best ways possible.

The Nigerian leader, while acknowledging the contributions if the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), described it as “a model, breaking physical barriers, and affirming the workability of the common approach to conquer challenges in the area.

The efforts and memories of these gallant soldiers, some of whom have paid the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty for the survival and restoration of stability to the region, will never be forgotten,” he said.

Read also: Tinubu’s admin ‘ll tackle poverty in Nigeria – Shettima

President Buhari further reiterated that during the period under review and with the support of Heads of State, efforts and funding were sustained for the MNJTF to ensure that it delivers on its mandate of ensuring a safe and secure environment in the region.

“You will recall that consequent to the deteriorating security situation in the Region, the Extraordinary Summit of 15th December 2018, held here in Abuja, directed the conduct of continuous operations to completely eradicate the scourge of Boko Haram terrorism from the region.

“I am glad to inform my dear brothers that in keeping with that decision, the MNJTF has since then, successfully conducted three major operations: Ops‘YANCIN TAFKI (I&II) and Ops Lake Sanity I, with, the fourth one, Ops Lake Sanity II, being planned. The next phase of the operation will take cognizance of lessons learned from previous exercises and effectively consolidate the gains attained by preceding Ops. I am glad to note that during the execution of Ops Lake Sanity I, regrouping terrorists in the Lake Chad Islands were effectively decimated,” the President added.

President Buhari urged the leaders to complement the fight against terrorism with development.

“It is in view of the foregoing, that the implementation of the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery, and Resilience of the Boko Haram affected Areas of the region must gain further traction without any delay.

“I am glad to note the development, costing, and validation of the territorial action plans for the eight Boko Haram most affected territories of the region.

“These action plans are the basic building blocks for the implementation of the strategy for the developmental needs of the people of the area. While we commend these initiatives, we must immediately commence efforts at their operationalization.
The President appealed to partners to continue to support the region as it redouble the ongoing efforts at developing the region, to win the hearts and minds of the citizens in the area.

He urged leaders in the region to continue together to proffer ingenious solutions to the challenges confronting us. We must, through the Commission, continue to make concerted efforts to provide the desired leadership, and ownership and ensure that our experts and troops are adequately motivated and supported to achieve our objectives.

“We must strive to continue to view our region through the lens of equity, fairness, diversity, and inclusion. It is imperative that we all see ourselves reflected in the kind of leadership we provide for the region.

“We must continue to support and contribute to the success of the organization. We all must rise and face the challenges of the region headlong in order to deliver the bright future we envisage for our region,’’ he stated.
The President said budgetary concerns remain a challenge for all member countries, considering the declining global inflows and increasing demands, adding that “we must, however, never lose sight of the vision of the Founding Fathers of the Commission. We must continue to strive and make collaborative efforts at upholding the ideals for which the LCBC in its nearly 60 years of existence has continued to pursue.’’

The President urged the leaders to remain committed to ensuring that the diversity in the region continues to be a source of strength and a positive cohesive force for the people of the Lake Chad Region.

“My dear brother-presidents, we must remain unrelenting in providing the needed political and material support for the LCBC/MNJTF in its efforts at delivering regional initiatives that will revamp Lake Chad and revitalize the socio-economic activities of the region. The fight against Boko Haram and other forms of criminality in the region must remain issues on the front burner of discourse in the region.

“Together, we shall collectively pursue our shared objectives of joint development of the Lake Chad region,’’ he said.

Speaking on his achievements , as Chairman of the LCBC, President Buhari said the meeting provided a platform to holistically review collective efforts at sustainable management of shared heritage, Lake Chad, and to reinvigorate efforts at ensuring peace and stability in the region.
“During the period under review, we intensified our efforts at ensuring that the drive to revitalize the Lake Chad through the Inter-Basin Water Transfer Project attracts regional and international attention. I acknowledge the concerted efforts of the Commission, in consonance with our partners, towards giving life to this laudable and all-important project.

Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the LCBC, Amb. Mammam Nuhu, said two reports of the 68th session of the Council of Ministers will be presented, and a report by the Special Envoy for Chadian transition.