Ambassador Dauda Danladi is the former Nigerian envoy to Pakistan, Islamabad and Afghanistan. In this interview, he speaks about the challenges before President Buhari’s special envoy to the Chad basin – Baba Gana Kingibe, the negative consequences of crisis in Mali to Nigeria and reason behind the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, among other issues.
President Buhari has appointed Baba Gana Kingibe as his special envoy in the Lake Chad basin, how strategic do you think that can be?
This question is for the embassy to answer, but as an outsider, Kingibe will try to assist the interim government in Chad toward honouring the agreement that election will be conducted within the specified period of time.
Secondly, he will try to ensure that multinational corporations agree in terms of combating security both within the joint taskforce, in the Sahel, and of course in Mali.
So, with the contribution of Mali to this ongoing operation, Kingibe will try to see that Nigeria assists Chad to sustain that tempo, I think it will be done.
These are the two most important issues that Kingibe has to face and also, the continued contribution in the Lake Chad basin commission so that the issue of trade will be strengthened.
It’s apt that Mr President has appointed Kingibe because he is a well experienced and dogged politician, he will try to see that they set the agenda for a transition to civilian rule as quickly as possible.
Chad has been in the forefront in the fight against terrorism. Chad and Nigeria are the two combative nations in the multinational taskforce, making sacrifices to ensure that they secure the Lake Chad basin. I believe Kingibe will do everything possible to ensure that stability is restored in Chad.
Why do think Lake Chad basin is so important in regional peace?
Lake Chad is very strategic to the achievement of peace in the ECOWAS region.
As it is, the Lake Chad basin is strategic in the fight against terrorism and it’s a rich basin. It provides, prior to this insurrection, a means of livelihood to about 30 million people living along the shores. Today, most of the islands have evacuated and the occupants have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
When late President Deby led his troop there last year, it gave the opportunity, especially in Borno State, to about 200,000 IDPs to return to the Lake Chad basin. They have been picking up the bits and pieces of their lives as well as economic activities.
Fish trade began to pick up and of course farming along the Lake Chad basin. They cultivate twice a year, in rainy and dry seasons.
Until today, the Lake Chad basin contributes billions of naira monthly in the fish trade. Kingibe should concentrate to ensure that normalization of social and economic activities is restored.
Also, he must try to see that Chad continues to contribute and participate in the ongoing fight against insecurity and insurgency to honour their commitments with multinational taskforce, the Sahel and of course the stabilization force which was put in by the United Nations.
I know that UN contributed over 2,200 troops in Mali. With the growing insurgency in Burkina Faso and other contiguous states, Mali salvation forces were put in place to checkmate the insecurity within the Arab Maghreb.
Among the five Sahel countries, Chad is the leading combative and active force in that region, so we will have to ensure that the bilateral and multinational engagement is maintained and sustained and the crowning glory will be for the interim government to honour its commitment of hand over within the eleven months.
You talked about reviving fish trade in the area, do you think that can help in stabilizing the basin?
It’s consolidated on the gains recorded when the over 200,000 IDPs returned to the shores and gradually engaged in the fish trade. That has, to a large extent, deprived Boko Haram the trade which has been the fuel to continue with their terrorist activity. Fish trade is the major source of Boko Haram funding in the Lake Chad basin.
It’s of serious concern. It is a challenge to Nigeria and a wake-up call for the other parties like Niger, Benin and Cameroon to rise up to the occasion to ensure the consolidation of the relative peace that has been achieved in the Lake Chad basin.
French President Emmanuel Macron has withdrawn military support in Mali and even the UN made similar threat, a move which analysts see as sabotage to security situation in sub-Saharan Africa. What is your take on this?
Well, there were lots of conspiracy theories with respect to the role France has been playing in the fight against terrorism but these are conspiracy theories.
France, since 2013, established its presence after sending its troops under Operation Barkhane, and that operation was to checkmate the exponential rise of terrorism activities especially in Francophone countries of Burkina faso, Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Chad and Mali.
The suspension of the military training and other logistics needs that they give to Mali is not quite good for the security of the region because it leaves the ECOWAS countries in a quandary. The multiplier effect, if necessary steps are not taken by the member states, is that there will be an upscale in the activities of terrorists within the region.
On the other hand, their action will in no distance future strangulate the military junta in Mali and I can see a situation where the Malian military junta will have to yield.
The international community is highly interested in ensuring that Mali stabilizes because Mauritania within the Arab Maghreb over a long period of time is viewed a breeding ground for terrorists with its vast desert. The country didn’t have the capacity to patrol its borders.
What do you think is the way out?
The argument has always been that ECOWAS and African Union should assist Mauritania in patrolling its border so that it should not be used as safe heaven for training of terrorist.
The truth of the matter is that, there is no way an Almajiri will know how to use an AK47 riffle, drive an APC or T55 tank. This requires training, and their infiltration from the Arab maghreb right down to Libya and Chad is what has been fuelling the activities of Boko Haram.
The alleged suicide committed by the leader of Boko Haram, Shekau, is tied down to funds they received from the Arab Maghreb.
It was a fight between the two groups over the funds that they have received, and this fund is Al-Qaeda remittance to sustain the activities of their brothers in West Africa, particularly in Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.
We hope it’s true that Shekau is dead this time around, dying in the hands of his own men – the ISWAP fighters led by Al-Barnawi.
Will his demise have any positive effect on Nigeria?
If the head is gone, then of course the members will be in disarray. I just came back two days ago from Borno. The Boko Haram elements that are coming forward to surrender their weapons especially from Gaza axis is quite encouraging.
It tallies with the supposed death of their leader. We have seen increasing number of Boko Haram members coming out to lay their weapons. If that is true, progress has been recorded but what I want to bring to attention is the fact that activity from safe heavens gateways for shipping of arms to the Arab Maghreb through the Sahel countries right down to Chad is worrisome.
Another thing that I want to bring to the fore is the ECOWAS moratorium on the control of small arms and light weapons, which President Buhari has given directives for the full implementation of the ECOWAS protocol.
It is unfortunate that the ECOWAS protocol has been in place for a very long period of time but has not been honoured by most of the member countries.
In the action plan, a national commission was supposed to be set up to oversee effort in steaming the tide of proliferation of light arms. In that document, there’s supposed to be regional register with data basis in the 15 member countries of ECOWAS to record all arms that are shipped into member countries, arms that have been collected, arms that have been destroyed and arms that are locally produced.
For example, Ghana alone produces about 100,000 local guns annually. They said it’s for hunting and games, but where are these arms shipped to? If you are looking at a period of five years, you are talking about 500,000 guns and in the latest figure, in Nigeria alone, six million guns are in the hands of people.
So, the implementation of that ECOWAS protocol should go hand in hand with the quest for peace in the region. Member countries must contribute, National commission must be set up, data basis must be established, contact groups with major suppliers, arms dealers, the abuse of end users’ certificate to ship arms within ECOWAS countries has to be checkmated.
We want to see a vibrant national commission coordinating the proliferation of the light and small arms in ECOWAS region.
The protocol of free movement, which has boosted trade and economic activities within the region, which give the region the platform to negotiate favourable deals with other international regional bodies like the World Trade Organization and other international trade organizations has been hijacked now by these illegal arms dealers and drug cartels.
This is a very serious challenge to the ECOWAS region. The ECOWAS protocol document should be implemented to the latter.