OUR PROBLEM WITH BOKO HARAM - NORTHERN GOVS
By Luka Binniyat
KADUNA - Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue weekend expressed the frustration of Northern Governors over their inability to halt the violence perpetrated by the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, saying they have found it difficult to initiate a meeting with the group because it hides its identity and the governors do not fully understands its cardinal demands.
He also declared that the government alone could not address the security challenges occasioned by the deadly activities of the sect without the support of the people in the north.
Suswam spoke to newsmen in Kaduna after attending the Northern States Governors' Forum (NSGF).
L-r: Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna State with chairman, Northern Governors Forum, Dr Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State at the Northern Governors Forum meeting in Kaduna, yesterday. Photo: Olu Ajayi.
Suswan said: 'If it were a situation where you have a defined leadership from the people causing this problem and you can sit at a round table and discuss with them, then it would be understandable. But in this case, these people are not known. They are not articulating any demand, so it is something that is totally different.
'If you look at terrorists from across the world, especially in places like Afghanistan, they articulate what their issues are. But these people (Boko Haram) are not saying anything and that presents a very difficult situation for the leadership, so it is not just about leadership as Northern Governors.
'We are doing our best at our own level, but we can't even see the people who are doing this; they are not ready to come to the table for discussion, so what do you do? We have to go into intelligence gathering and in intelligence gathering; it is the people that provide the necessary information to security agents.
Kaduna, Kano, Jos, now no go area
'We are calling for the support of all Northerners to help us by providing information. Now, look at our sad situation about investment - Kano is gone, Kaduna is gone, Jos is gone. These are the three most vibrant cities in the entire north. All of them are gone! Nobody wants to live in Kaduna; nobody wants to go to Kano and trade, who will go on holiday in Jos now? Nobody! 'So we have a very serious situation that affects us all, it is not about leadership failure. Let's not be pushing it on leadership. Yes, leadership has a large chunk of the responsibilities, but we need to come together and see it as our collective problem and not a leadership problem.
'The only way to confront the security situation in the region is through intelligence gathering, which depends largely on the cooperation of the people to provide credible information to security agents since those behind the bombings are not spirits, but live among the people.
'Although government has a responsibility to ensure the security of lives and property of the citizenry, the present circumstance requires people to collaborate with security agents in confronting the terrorists.
'People must assist in intelligence gathering because these people are not spirits, they live in homes, they live in the community. They do their trainings in homes. We need to have information at the level of leadership, otherwise, the north as it were, is being decapitated economically and so there is nothing that we, as leaders alone can do, except we collaborate.
'At the meeting, we seriously discussed the security challenges in the north and we took very far reaching decisions to address them. But you will agree with me that what is happening now is an emerging phenomenon in the North.
'We must look at where we have gone wrong, why we have moved from one extreme to another extreme. It is very strange to see that people are bombing in the north; it is strange that we now have what we have now', he said.