By Akinwande Soji-Ojo
The United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has underscored the need to address the root causes of terrorism in order to end the menace affecting the lives of innocent Nigerians.
Guterres spoke on Wednesday while fielding questions from reporters after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The UN scribe, who highlighted ways to end terrorism, said: “It is simple, I saw it in Borno. If you fight terrorism just militarily, the terrorists will strike back. But if you fight terrorists militarily and address the root cause of this terrorism, terrorists will no longer have a chance to persist.
“I think that it was Mao Tse Tung that said that insurrection moves like fish in the water. So, if the communities are able to defend themselves and they trust the regional government’s institutions, and if there are programmes to guarantee full reintegration of ex-terrorists, and to guarantee that victims have a future, then I think we can defeat terrorism.”
Guterres, who said his trip to Nigeria gave him the opportunity to see, first-hand, some of the enormous challenges facing the country, stated that, “violence continues to cast a shadow of death over so many Nigerians, thereby creating a crisis of displacement across the country and the neighbourhood.”
He, said that he returned from Borno State with the sense that Nigeria would be able to defeat the threat posed by terrorism.
Guterres had earlier in a statement issued by the presidency said what he saw in the state on Tuesday was a departure from the pictures of hopelessness and despair being painted, adding that “people exuded hope.”
“Yesterday (Tuesday), I visited Maiduguri where the United Nations is supporting the internally displaced. I was deeply moved by their stories and struggles.
“These include the struggles with hunger, with the World Food Programme projecting 4.1 million people in the North East of Nigeria to be food insecure in the upcoming lean season,” he said.
Guterres said the United Nations had called for an additional $351 million as part of the overall $1.1 billion for the humanitarian response plan for Nigeria.
“But despite all they have seen and endured, the people I met remain hopeful and committed to returning to their communities and resuming their lives. To that end, I welcome the establishment of the Presidential Committee on the Repatriation, Returns and Resettlement of Displaced Persons in the North East.
“This spirit of hope amidst hardship – and solidarity in struggle – was also at the centre of my discussions with the Presidency today,” he said.
The UN Secretary General said that measures to address security challenges in the country, Lake Chad and Sahel were discussed, which included the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.
He thanked President Buhari for his unwavering support for the Multinational Joint Task Force and the Lake Chad Basin Commission, assuring more commitment from the UN on COVID-19 vaccinations, vulnerability of countries to global warming, global food crises response and reform of the UN Security Council.
The statement said discussions with Buhari also touched on laying the groundwork to ensure peaceful and democratic elections next year, and the full participation of Nigeria’s women and young people.
He said the war in Ukraine will make things worse for global food, energy and financial systems, adding: “That’s why, in the earliest days of this war, I established the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, involving all UN Agencies and international financial institutions. The Steering Committee is chaired by Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed.”
Guterres appealed to the international community to fully support what was being done in Borno State to make sure that the hope that he saw could be transformed into a reality of peace and prosperity for everybody.
He expressed his belief that Nigeria and its people have a big role to play in shaping solutions to the global crisis “engulfing our world.”
“Nigeria is a pillar of continental and global cooperation and the steadfast partner of the United Nations.
“From its vital support for peacekeeping to its its leadership in fighting for fairness for developing countries to being the home country of my dear friend, United Nations’ Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.
“Above all, Nigeria is a country where Africa’s promise and potential come to vivid life,” Guterres added.
The UN scribe had on Tuesday visited a rehabilitation centre for victims of BokoHaram and an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, where he said with what he saw, Nigeria would be able to defeat terrorism.
While receiving his visitor, Buhari told the United Nations scribe that terrorism remains a threat to global peace, security and progress, with many already killed, while millions displaced by the insurgents over many years.
The president said Nigeria and the African continent were already concerned that the attention on Russia and Ukraine would crowd out other issues, adding that the ongoing visit of the UN scribe clearly showed that “the world has not forgotten us.”
He said the focus on Russia and Ukraine could easily distract from other pertinent global challenges.
“When we assumed office, the North East was the major security problem we inherited in 2015, but we have been able to make people understand that you cannot kill people and shout ‘Allahu Akbar,’ (God is great!).
“It is either you don’t know what you are saying or you are simply stupid. God is a God of justice, so you cannot kill people and say God is great. Luckily, the people understood our message and it has made a great impact,” he said.
Buhari, however, said Nigeria remains grateful to the United Nations and some world leaders for their steadfast partnership in fighting terrorism.
He told Guterres that the government had started a gradual but steady process of resettlement and reintegration where citizens get encouraged to return to their farms, businesses and other pursuits in life.
The president thanked the secretary general for his maiden visit to Nigeria.