By Ndahi Marama & Joseph Erunke
MAIDUGURI—President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, visited troops of Operation Lafiya Dole in Borno State and lauded efforts by military, security operatives, Governor Kashim Shettima and members of Civilian JTF in the fight against Boko Haram.
The President’s visit came as the US released $54 million, in addition to humanitarian assistance to Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and four countries affected by the Boko Haram crisis.
Buhari, visiting Borno for the first time since he became President in 2015, arrived the Parade Ground of Maimalari Cantonment, 7 Division, Maiduguri, at about 12:05 pm addressed the troops, Police and other para-military personnel.
Addressing the troops, President Buhari said efforts put in place by security forces in sustaining peace, unity and progress of Nigeria as an indivisible country, were highly commendable and pledged government’s continued support for troops of Operation Lafiya Dole to end terrorism in the North-East.
He said: “We are here today in Borno State to interact with you (troops) and to celebrate the 57th Independence Day anniversary.
“I want to commend you for your sacrifices in the fight against insurgents. I am here as a morale booster and I assure you that we will continue to do our best to support you in the frontline and end all forms of terrorism in our dear country.
“I want to also say that those who think they can do everything to divide Nigeria are jokers, because Nigeria is an indivisible country.
“We, as government, will continue to improve on the economy to create jobs for the teeming youths. We are also determined to kick corruption out of this country.
“I was a state governor sometime ago and Borno was my base. At that time, nobody thought Borno will witness any crisis, but I want to reiterate that we will do our best to restore peace in any part of this great country.”
After addressing the troops, the President also took time to cut the anniversary cake and interacted with soldiers wounded in action, including Sergeants Owen Eze, who was shot in the neck in Gwoza Operational Base.
Olonisakin lauds Buhari
Earlier in his welcome address, Chief of Defence Staff, General A. G. Olonisakin, appreciated President Buhari for celebrating the 57th Independence anniversary with the gallant troops, who have all sacrificed their lives in the fight against Boko Haram.
Olonisakin said:“This visit by Mr. President is really a morale booster for us on the frontline. Recall that in the last two years, the people in the North East witnessed series of wanton killings and destruction of property by insurgents, but we are glad for the relative peace being enjoyed now. And this could not have been achieved without the tremendous support we have been receiving from Mr. President.”
Among those who accompanied the President to Maiduguri were Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, and Director-General of Department of State Services, Alhaji Mamman Daura.
US gives $54m to Nigeria, others
Meanwhile, the US has released $54 million, in addition to humanitarian assistance, to Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and the four countries affected by the Boko Haram violence.
US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon, disclosed this at a symposium, tagged ‘Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects for Advancing Durable Peace,” organised by the US Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C.
Shannon said the US government’s humanitarian assistance to the four countries totalled about $700 million since 2015.
He said: “On security issues, Nigeria is an important leader and partner in the Lake Chad Basin, collaborating with its neighbours to defeat the scourge of Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa.
“The United States supports this and other efforts to bring security and stability to citizens affected by violence.
“At the United Nations last week, the US government announced $54 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Lake Chad region, bringing the total to almost $700 million over the past two years.”
According to him, while humanitarian support is an immediate necessity, it cannot be a long-term solution.
He said: “When Nigeria’s northern governors came to this institution in late 2016, the clear consensus was that addressing the war and poverty plaguing northeast Nigeria required robust initiatives for education, reconciliation and political inclusion.
“I am pleased the working group here today is bringing together your collective years of experience as spiritual leaders, military commanders, journalists, election officials, human rights advocates and educators to develop strategies to address these enduring challenges.
“The United States is proud to be your partner in these vital efforts. Your work to defuse conflicts over a range of issues, from elections to land use, inspires us all.”
He recalled his bilateral meeting with Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, on the sidelines of the 72nd UN General Assembly last week, saying they had robust engagements about the Boko Haram crisis and other pressing issues.
Shannon said: “My meeting with the Nigerian Foreign Minister last week was a great opportunity to learn more about what else the Nigerian government is trying to accomplish on the security front.
“It is clear to me that Nigeria is well aware that the fight against terrorism will be won not only by the military’s conduct on the battlefield, but also by its conduct off the field.
“Nigeria understands that human rights abuses and impunity tarnish its international reputation, undermine the trust of its citizens, impede counter-terrorism efforts, and ultimately hinder our ability to fully partner with Nigeria.”
According to him, however, a military response alone will not lead to sustained peace in the Northeast.
“A holistic response is required. One that sets the conditions for the safe return of refugees and displaced persons.
He commended the Institute and the Senior Working Group for their dedication and determination to create a more peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
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