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15m Out-Of-School Children Inimical To Fight Against Boko Haram, Says Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, contended that until Nigeria began to be intentional about dealing with the root causes of Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping and other crimes, solving them in the coming years would remain an uphill task.

The ex-Nigerian leader stated that Nigeria currently has about 15 million out-of-school children, explaining that this would remain a reservoir for the recruitment of new members into organised crimes in the coming years.

Obasanjo spoke at the 2022 Murtala Muhammed Foundation Memorial Lecture at the Yar’adua Centre, in Abuja, themed: “Beyond Boko Haram: Addressing Insurgency, Banditry and Kidnapping Across Nigeria.”

Also speaking at the event, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, however, advocated “a comprehensive national response” to win the battle against insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and all forms of security afflicting the country.

Obasanjo, who is the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the foundation, traced the origin of the proliferation of arms and rise in crimes in Nigeria to the aftermath of the civil war, and noted that insecurity was becoming a big industry for certain individuals.

“There are people, who have turned the whole matter into an industry so that they can supply equipment and materials, some of them useless equipment, some of them old.

“They have turned it into an industry. Even the equipment we buy legitimately, the countries will give conditions that you have to take permission from us before you can use this equipment for internal operation. Those are some of the inhibitions,” he stated.

He argued that until Nigeria devoted attention to educating the millions of out-of-school children, provided employment and dealt with social inequality, the challenge of insecurity would continue to rear its ugly head.

The elder statesman pointed out that in 2011, when he began to look at the activities of Boko Haram, his fear was that it should never have any foreign collaboration, but unfortunately, the fear has been confirmed, he stressed.

“What I feared at that time, because in 2011, when I was looking at the issue of Boko Haram, they did not have that much of external reach, in fact, maybe 10 to 11 per cent was the external connection they had at that time, and that would be Nigerians, who had some resources available, who were helping them.

“And we were trying to keep them away from al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations. We have seen that we have not been able to do that and today we have seen outsiders come to join them. Kidnapping, Banditry and abduction are separate aspects, but whatever they are, we need to deal with them,” he said.

Maintaining that the current security challenges did not start overnight, the former Nigerian leader argued that Nigeria must now begin to take the right steps and walk away from the mistakes of the past.

“But they didn’t just start overnight, it’s a question of many things, including unemployment, social disparity and I believe that the kind of emphasis that should have been placed on education was not placed on it.

“With the population of Nigeria today standing at 215 million, and 15 million children that should be in school, but are not in school, it doesn’t matter how we deal with Boko Haram, kidnapping, banditry.

“It doesn’t matter whether by stick or by carrot or by stick and carrot, when you have 15 million children that should be in school that are not in school, that will be potential Boko Haram 15 years from now.

“And I believe that it is not too late to start, even while we still have Boko Haram and the rest of them, to say that we do not want Boko Haram by the year 2030, 2035 and if we don’t do anything about the 15 million children that are out of school, you are already nurturing the Boko Haram of tomorrow,” he stated.

On his part, Fayemi, also called for massive investment in public health, nutrition, education, promotion of partnerships for affordable housing, food security, potable water and creation of enabling environment to put opportunities for skills acquisition and gainful employment for the youth to reduce violent crimes in the land.

Fayemi, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF),

said concerted and collective efforts must be put into the fight against security challenges, which has extended its tentacles to all nooks and crannies of the country.

While sounding the battle cry against the the challenges at hand, the Ekiti governor regretted that, “The boundaries of contemporary national insecurity have been further enlarged by the emergence and expansion of an industry in kidnapping that has overwhelmed an important swathe of northwestern Nigeria and graduated into the status of a national pandemic.”

Extolling the virtues of the late Gen. Mohammed, Fayemi noted that although the former Nigerian leader was in office for a very short time, he made a lasting impact and embodied the lesson, which all public office holders must always be reminded of.

“For my generation of Nigerians, the late General Mohammad, was not only a charismatic leader, whose decisive, no-nonsense, business unusual style captured our youthful imagination, he has also over the years remained an uncommon example of public service through the uncompromising commitment he displayed to the pursuit of the common good.

“As with most other Nigerians, the deep regret, which we felt was that he did not rule long enough to personally complete the task of national rebirth, which he and his colleagues had defined for themselves at the time he came to power. Still, he earned his place in our hearts and in the pantheon of our national heroes.

“Murtala Muhammed successfully re-ignited hope in a post-civil war Nigeria that we can as a people aspire to new and greater heights to occupy our rightful place in dignity as a leader in the comity of nations. Such was the impact he had in so short a period of time that memory of his time with us remains so fresh and evergreen. May his soul continue to Rest In Peace, Amen,” he said.

Dissecting the issue of the day, Fayemi noted that Nigeria had grappled with various forms of security problems and criminalities including armed robbery, militancy, vandalism of oil pipelines and hostage taking, ethno-religious killings but had recently exacerbated with insurgency, kidnapping and banditry.

The governor explained that the security challenges facing the country should not be seen as problems of a particular geopolitical zone but as a national issue all Nigerians, including the leaders and the led must join hands together to tackle to restore confidence in the polity.

Giving suggestions on how to the problems can be successfully tackled, Fayemi said issues underpinning the nation’s security challenges must be addressed as well emphasizing on forging of a new compact between the state and the society, whose centrepiece must be an inclusive and expansive project of human security in the land.

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