AS the deadline for the ongoing military operations to clear the North East of the menace of Boko Haram Islamist terrorists draws nearer, the Federal Government is set to empanel a national conference to generate ideas, strategies and momentum for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the nation’s embattled frontier.
The conference, tentatively set for December 7, 2015, according to the Presidency, will involve stakeholders from the government, private sector and international partners.
It is expected that the North East Marshall Plan (NEMAP), which will be designed to tackle the immediate and long term strategies for the restoration of the broken human and infrastructure of the North East, will gulp over N200 billion.
It is noteworthy that the nation is preparing, well ahead of time, to help its embattled citizens wracked by violent insurgency which has claimed nearly 20,000 lives and displaced over two million people, to their feet as quickly as possible, rather than leaving them to their own devices when, hopefully, the enemy is defeated.
We, however, hope that a thorough job is done in ending the insurgency first before rushing to award contracts. The insurgents must be decisively flushed out and prevented from infiltrating the law abiding populace or else the returning internally displaced persons will not have the protection they need to settle down and rebuild their lives.
It does not make sense for people to go back to their communities only to live in fear of suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.
To keep the insurgents at bay, an effective strategy for maintaining vigilance and communal partnership with the security agencies must be put in place. We must banish the notion that only the law enforcement agencies can protect us from insurgents. Everybody has a role to play. Perhaps, it is time to give the much talked about idea of community policing a chance. No one can police a community more than members of that community.
While we wait for the laws to be amended to accommodate community policing, we suggest that the existing “Civilian JTF” networks, which have usefully partnered with the troops in the North East campaigns, should be strengthened.
The reconstruction efforts should focus mainly on restoring broken socio-economic amenities such as schools, healthcare facilities, markets, motor parks and road networks. Particular attention should be given to farmers and small-scale businesses to rejuvenate economic activities.
The people must be kept gainfully employed to avoid an upsurge of violent crimes which usually come at the end of most wars and conflicts.
The conference to rebuild the North East should be a comprehensive package to ensure that insurgency never comes back, while the people victimised by the conflict are fully reactivated.