President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said Nigeria retrieved the swathes of territories from Boko Haram/Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists by investing over a $1 billion since 2015 to acquire hard and soft ware weaponry from the United States and other friendly countries to carry out sustained operations against insurgency.
The President said this while speaking at the African Conference for Peace, 2023, in Nouakchott, Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
President Buhari, who was honoured by the Abu Dhabi Peace Forum with “Award for Strengthening Peace in Africa”, said there was a need to inculcate values and principles of tolerance and peace in educational institutions, and particularly, among the youths.
He urged leaders to place a premium on youth development, with more seriousness and actionable ideas in promoting skills acquisitions, while discouraging idleness.
The President said idleness of youths and non-inclusion in discussing issues that shape their lives and the future portend liability for the continent, especially in religious fundamentalism and extremism.
President Buhari, in a statement issued by his Spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said efforts must be concretised towards the curtailment and possible prevention of the circulation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, as well as the festering of the foreign fighters into the African continent.
The President called for the imperatives of the next Summit of the African Union to take a holistic review of the challenges that continue to fester in Libya with the hope of finding pragmatic African approach to resolving the over a decade-old instability in Libya that had made it a haven for all kinds of weapons and foreign fighters whose profound impacts stare all in the sub-regions and Africa.
“Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, global terrorism, banditry and other trans-national crimes continue to pose enormous challenges not only to Africa but to global peace and security. These phenomena have become perennial threats to sustained economic development and growth.
“Nigeria and other regional bodies in Africa and the rest of the world are working assiduously to deal with these existential threats to the very existence of humanity. For us in Nigeria, we continue to engage bilaterally and multilaterally to comprehensively win the war against the Boko Haram insurgency and other related terror groups through kinetic and non-kinetic approaches.
“When I assumed power in 2015, Boko Haram held about two thirds of Borno State, half of Yobe State, and a couple of Local Government Areas in Adamawa State, all in the North-East of Nigeria. We have been able to retrieve these swathes of territories by investing over a $1 billion dollars to acquire hard and soft ware weaponry from the US and other friendly countries to carry out sustained operations against insurgency since 2015.
“Our Armed Forces and those of our partners in the Multinational Joint Task Force (consisting of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Benin Republic and Nigeria) continue to demonstrate great bravery while paying the ultimate price in securing our collective freedom. Despite the difficult times we face, we continue to spend very scarce and lean resources to ensure that we have a well-resourced military force to take on this task. Ideally, these are resources that could be spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure and other social services, but without peace, we have learnt the hard way that our children cannot go to school or seek good healthcare,” the President stated.
President Buhari told the assembly of African leaders that the shrinking of Lake Chad had resulted in dire consequences of the people of the region losing their traditional source of living which culminated into the youths being recruited by the terrorist groups who were seeking for means of livelihood occasioned by difficult economic conditions.
He explained that the scenario created serious instability and served as a litmus test for member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in devising means to restore the livelihoods within the region.
“As a corollary to containing this development, the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) has begun implementing programmes to safeguard the ecosystem of the basin, including seeking global support to return the lake to an economic hub it was known for in the past.
“Although, we are winning the war, however, as a country and sub-region, we continue to be negatively impacted by events in Libya, Central Africa Republic, The Sahel and the war in Ukraine. Our region, is awash with all sorts of small and light weapons that continue to be freely in circulation, orchestrated by the impact of foreign fighters.
“We must therefore, support peace initiatives to bring political stability in crisis ridden areas such as Libya, Central African Republic and other parts of the Sahel region in order to discourage the spread of insurgency, other criminal groups, as well as arms and foreign fighters in these locations and continent-wide,” he stated.
President Buhari thanked the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace under the tutelage and sterling leadership of Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, for the honour of nominating him as the recipient of the “African Award for Strengthening the Peace.”
In his remarks, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, said the 2023 conference theme was based on the recommendations of the “Nouakchott Declaration” which aimed to deconstruct the religious basis of extremist speeches and to limit violence based on religious arguments enshrined as a reference document in the African Vision for Peace at the 33rd Summit of Heads of State of the African Union.
Welcoming African leaders and scholars to the peace conference, the President of Mauritania said the award was given to President Buhari for providing good leadership and promoting peace in a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-linguistic country like Nigeria, and extending his experience and wisdom to other African countries.