President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday gave kudos to his administration for the return of a “calmer atmosphere” to parts of the Northeast – a zone fighting hard to end Boko Haram insurgency.
By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
Poverty driving more people to join Boko Haram, says Zulum
But, he lamented that lean resources and the effect of COVID-19 pandemic had slowed down the efforts to crush the insurgents.
The President met with governors of the troubled geo-political zone and top security chiefs. On Sunday, he met with Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum, the chairman of the Northeast Governors’ Forum, whose convoy was attacked last month on his way to Baga in his state.
Zulum blamed sabotage in the military for the attack in which two of his aides were injured.
Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina quoted the President as saying during the meeting that: “We have problems of resources and security. You know what we inherited. The people of the Northeast will appreciate what this administration has done.
“The general report I am getting, apart from the conventional ones from the intelligence sources, is that the Army should do better and this is the truth.
“It is so often coming to me that I have to believe it. I listened to your representation, the governor (of Borno) who is on the hotspot now in the Northeast.
Adamawa, Bauchi and the rest of them are enjoying peace. I hope they are respecting the sacrifice made by the military.
“I assure you that the government is doing its best. Lack of resources has hit us very hard. COVID-19 is a phenomenon. It has no respect for colour, you can’t smell it, you can’t see it, you can’t hear it. The United States and us are the same. It is a fantastic phenomenon. I think we should all go back to God.”
The President, however, assured the governors that his administration would not rest in its efforts to restore peace to the troubled zone.
He added: “I assure you North East governors, especially the governor of Borno, that we go to bed and wake up thinking about you and how to secure our country. That is the fundamental responsibility of a government; security. In our party, we recognise this. We campaigned on three fundamental issues: security, economy and fighting corruption.
“Nigerians, we thank God, understood us and they voted for us. In 2019, we went round the whole country, saying the same thing and apologising for not doing better, but we are doing our best. I think Nigerians believe us and we did our best.”
The governors said Boko Haram has been recruiting people in the region to perpetrate their criminal activities and attack on the people, because of prevalent poverty among citizens.
Speaking after the meeting, Zulum, who led five other governors to the meeting, said they highlighted the key security challenges in the region before the President.
Zulum explained that they made it known that creating an enabling environment for the people to return to their homes and farmlands would reduce the influence of Boko Haram in the zone.
He said: “One of the root causes is that of access to farm lands, people need to go back to their farmlands. People need to be resettled in their original homes so that they can restart their means of livelihood.
“This is one of the reasons the insurgents are recruiting more into the sect. Creating an enabling environment that will enable the people to go about their normal duties will no doubt reduce the cases of insurgency.”
He said the governors recommended that the police should be provided with adequate equipment to bridge the existing gap in manpower.
The governor added: “The governments of the zone have commended the efforts of the Federal Government in securing the zone. However, we told Mr. President that there is need for the Federal Government to address the causes of insurgency, which are not limited to the endemic poverty, hunger among others.”