It is now nearly a decade since Boko Haram insurgents launched their first attack in Yobe State.
Over the last eight years, our people have borne the brunt as the insurgents attacked towns and villages, set schools, public and private buildings on fire, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to become internally displaced.
These are statistics we are sadly familiar with. But Boko Haram is by no means the only security challenge we currently face as a state.
As we transit to a post-insurgency era with the relative peace that our state now enjoys, there are emergent security threats that we are equally very concerned about. The rising cases of rape, kidnapping, robbery, homicide, conflict between farmers and pastoralists, and cattle-rustling are challenges we have to confront seriously.
The Yobe State Government believes that we, as a people, cannot make meaningful socio-economic progress while these security challenges persist. We have to confront them.
Now, it is true that the army, police, civil defence, and other security agencies have done – and still continue to do – their utmost to contain and tackle these security challenges. For this, they have our gratitude and our respect. They also have our unflinching moral and material support, as we have demonstrated on countless occasions, including yesterday when we provided 30 additional new Hilux vehicles for security operations.
But given the unique opportunity that this summit provides, it is pertinent to pause and reflect on how our collective journey has been in addressing our security challenges, and what new ideas we can test in order to fully restore peace and secure the lives and property of our people.
First, we strongly believe that while the military effort to contain the insurgency is necessary, we must actively explore and engage in dialogue. As records show, no conflict of this nature anywhere in the world has ever been resolved solely by military means.
We therefore suggest that we should seek – and use – back channels to open communications and contacts that both sides could trust as credible. Such communications and contacts should necessarily lead to something meaningful.
Second, we also hold the view that the military should open – or reinforce – a ‘safe haven’ for insurgents who desire to defect from the insurgency or repent from their demonstrably evil ways.
Third, we should more forcefully seek to engage the general public in the quest for lasting peace. This is something that we are already doing in Yobe State.
Through deliberate public information and enlightenment campaigns, we should work to make members of the public active partners of our security agencies, by getting them to pass useful information whenever they noticed any suspicious persons or movements.
The security agencies, on the other hand, should show a more friendly disposition to the public who come forward to pass or share information. They should regard every information reasonably provided as useful. They should chase down leads and give members of the public the confidence that their participation and contributions are factored and appreciated.
Security is an all-hands-on-deck affair. Our states in the North-East and our country as a whole would be a lot better when security agencies and the general public work together and remain on the same page against any individuals or groups who threaten our collective security.
Finally, let me reiterate that the Yobe State Government will continue to support, collaborate and partner with our security agencies and with the federal government to ensure that peace is fully restored in the state and across the North-East region.
Thank you so much.