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Takeaways from Buhari’s participation in Dakar forum on peace/security

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This year’s Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, the third in the annual series attracted the participation of President Muhammadu Buhari along with some other African leaders.

It was an important opportunity to strengthen relations between Africa and its development partners.

In addition to all things, President Buhari owed to his Senegalese counterpart to be present on account of the visit, at least three times that I know, that President Mackey Sall came here on our government’s invitation.

President Buhari was received with a lot of warmth. 

It was clear from the actions and pronouncements of the hosts, that President Sall and his government were very pleased that President Buhari had at last reciprocated by visiting.

Besides the diplomatic gains of the visit, what other major gains were made by Nigeria by having our President in attendance?

As a background, the meeting had in attendance, high-level stakeholders, including, as earlier stated, Presidents and heads of government as well as ministers responsible for internal security, defence and foreign affairs.

Others were heads of security and defence institutions on the continent, regional and international organizations, business leaders, scholars, experts and the civil society.

Dozens of workshops were held on security related issues affecting Africa.

It was an intense two-day engagement, and for those who mistake the presidential trips as pleasurable junkets, the President’s plane left Dakar in the dark hours of the second day of the visit, to land in Abuja early the following morning.

The President had raced back home to swear in the new commissioners he appointed for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and to preside at the Wednesday meeting of the Federal Executive Council, FEC.

The Forum attached a central importance to experience-sharing.

Now, this is an area in which Nigeria has the dubious honor of being a leader, given our ongoing engagement with Boko Haram terrorists. 

Routing the Boko Haram terrorism is one of the priorities of this administration. 

The President has defined the challenges of terrorism in Nigeria as being Boko Haram in the North East and Militancy in the South-South.

In the speech he read, and his various responses to questions at an interactive forum, President Buhari offered to the continent this county’s recipe for a lasting solution to the challenge of terrorism. 

His speech was further expanded in details by officials on the delegation.

In the series of briefings, African leaders were given the essentials of the two-way approach to fighting terror put in place by the current administration.

One is that there is a “Soft Approach.” This approach has a blueprint tagged as “National Counter-terrorism Strategy.” 

As a part of this, government has a de-radicalization program coordinated by the Counter Terrorism Centre. 

De-radicalization basically entails the various ways to rehabilitate and re-orientate repentant terrorists and to fight the ideological influence of terrorist organizations.

An implementation mechanism, the Presidential Committee for North East Initiative (PCNI), for economic empowerment through provision of emergency assistance, social stabilisation, economic reconstruction and redevelopment has also been put in place.

There is also in place, a Victim Support Fund and a National Trauma Centre to collate data on victims of Boko Haram insurgency, and provide assistance to them.

Government is also engaging in the sensitization and orientation of the civil populace to disabuse their mind against the negative propaganda of the Boko Haram group.

There is also a Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Resolution of Security Challenges in the North East to engage the Boko Haram (BH) insurgents and win their hearts through dialogue. 

The Committee has engaged the insurgents in various prisons and detention centers with a view to cultivating them to accept the dialogue option. 

As a result of this engagement, 21 Chibok Girls were released on 13th October, 2016, through negotiations. 

Efforts are being intensified to ensure the safe release of the rest of the Chibok Girls and other victims.

Government has also established a Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) specifically to address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country.

Almajiri schools (integrated western and Quranic schools) in the nineteen (19) states of the north to facilitate enrolment of street children who are vulnerable to recruitment by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups have established. 

Through the implementation of Safe School Initiative [SSI], protection of schools in the states affected by Boko Haram is being paid attention to, with an initial funding of US$20million.

Other measures put in place include wider Foreign Intelligence Cooperation (Liaison Relations) at the regional and sub-regional levels in view of the trans-national and cross-border nature of terrorism and related crimes. 

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