By: Kingsley Omonobi – Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has harped on the need for humanitarian and security agencies operating in the North East centre of Boko Haram insurgency to work in collaboration and trust to avoid the tension that led recently to the banishment of some humanitarian agencies.
Speaking at the two-day international workshop on improving civil-security cooperation in humanitarian interventions in the North East in Maiduguri, Buhari said, “I must state that globally in many theatres of conflict, the relationship between humanitarian and security actors responding to the humanitarian crisis is always tense with mistrust and misunderstanding.
“In the North East of Nigeria, the tension between the civil society organization and the security agencies deteriorated into a full-blown impasse this year, which eventually resulted in the suspension of activities of some international non-governmental organization by the theatre command of Operation Lafiya Dole.
Represented by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), the President said, “Accordingly, following series of mediation efforts and high-level interactions between the Federal Government, leaders of the Humanitarian community and the United Nations, it was agreed that there was an urgent need to develop a Civil-Security Cooperation framework for Humanitarian Interventions in the North East.
“Our gathering here is, therefore, to strategize and stress the importance of fostering a better relationship between the military, Para-military and the other humanitarian actors in the face of the crisis in the North East.
He said, “This occasion provides an opportunity for stakeholders involved in humanitarian emergencies to strategize and deliberate on the most efficient and effective ways to address some of the challenges of implementing humanitarian action in the Region.
“It is my expectation that this workshop will lay the critical foundation to foster better relations between the Civil Society Organizations, the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies with the sole objective of ensuring better collaboration, cooperation and coherence in their activities in the North East.
“I should remind us that with the proliferation of complex security issues in conflict zones, civil society and security agencies need to work together on an unprecedented scale as these challenges cannot be easily resolved by either side alone.
“These security issues are not just those related to the war on terror, but also associated security issues like humanitarian emergencies, starvation, diseases, banditry and organized crime.
“More often than not, the aftermath of some of these non-traditional security issues will involve post-conflict reconstruction and economic rejuvenation.
“This requires increasingly diverse ancillary tasks for both military and civilian organizations, which necessitates collaboration. The complicated objectives of these activities require an integrated and coordinated response from a multitude of civilian and security actors.
“Thus, it is imperative to actively debate and shape their aim and policies into a single, coherent strategy that encompasses both strategic and tactical objectives.
“This workshop would, therefore, serve as an important avenue to find solutions to some of the insecurity problems in the region.
“The presentations you will be hearing will aim to promote knowledge, understanding and implementation of a civil – security agencies coordination in the theatre of conflict.
While commending the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies for their efforts in aid of civil society organizations in North East, the President said, “As an institution birthed by law, the military is an important part of the democratization process. The role of the military in a democracy is not only to defend the territorial integrity of the Nation but also to defend the nation’s democracy”.
“It is in recognition of this that civil – security cooperation has always been accorded due attention by the armed forces.
He charged the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to ensure that issues and concerns bordering on coordination and management of humanitarian operations in the country are given greater attention.
It would be recalled that the Theatre Command recently banned the activities of Action Against Hunger (AAH) over allegations that the NGO was aiding the deadly activities of Boko Haram terrorist group.
In ordering the closure of the humanitarian outfit, the military said, “The Theatre Command, Operation Lafiya Dole has observed with utter disappointment and concern, the notorious activities of some Non-Government Organizations working in the North East, Nigeria”.
“The subversive activities of the NGO, Action Against Hunger (AAH) has persisted despite several warnings to desist from aiding and abetting terrorists and their atrocities”.
The closure of AAH followed on the heels of similar action on offices of Mercy Corps, while last December, UNICEF operations were temporarily banned on the grounds that the agency was spying for Boko Haram.