Following Nigeria’s attainment of independence on Oct. 1, 1960, the country’s foreign policy has been focused on becoming a regional power in Africa.
Its leaders at the time decided that the country would be able to achieve that by imbibing several fundamental principles.
Such principles ranged from African unity and independence, capability to exercise hegemonic influence in the region through peaceful settlement of disputes, non-alignment and non-intentional interference in the internal affairs of other nations, as well as regional economic cooperation and development.
To be able to carry out these principles, Nigeria made a decision to be an active participant in the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations (UN).
Since becoming a member of the UN, the humanitarian community has continued to renew its commitment toward fighting against human and drug trafficking and related crimes as well as providing humanitarian support to refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) banished by insurgency.
Aid provided by the humanitarian community such as UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria and West Africa as a whole, in the past ten years and in spite of the acts of terror in the area, without doubt, constitute a paradigm shift from what obtained in the past.
Now in its ninth year, the humanitarian crisis in Northeast Nigeria remains one of the most severe in the world.
In its report titled, “Nigeria: 2019 Humanitarian Overview’’, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said that across the three affected states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, 7.1 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2019 out of the total population of 13.4 million.
More than 80 per cent of internally displaced people were in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis, and more than 60 per cent were living in host communities, making it harder to access them with assistance and putting additional pressure on the already stretched resources of these communities, it said.
According to the report, however, some 1.6 million people have returned home since Aug. 2015, indicating that conditions in some locations have improved.
Humanitarian organisations are not able to meet all needs in the north-east; more than 800,000 people in Borno State are estimated to be in areas that are inaccessible to the organisations.
In April 2018, humanitarian organisations developed a multi-sector Rainy Season Contingency Plan with concrete preparedness and response measures to address the expected rise in humanitarian needs resulting from flooding of camps and towns, the damage and destruction to shelters and houses as well education and health facilities.
The plan was also to respond to the heightened risk of waterborne disease transmission, including cholera and hepatitis E as well as the pre-positioning of life-saving items such as food, seeds, medicines, emergency shelter, non-food items and hygiene kits.
In addition, the humanitarian community is exploring alternative transport options for humanitarian cargo movements between Ngala town and Rann, such as the use of canoes.
The counter-insurgency measures carried out by the Nigerian military and their regional partners have improved access to new areas.
The government also announced plans to relocate tens of thousands of IDPs from Maiduguri to Bama where rehabilitation of public and private infrastructure is underway. On April 2, 3,070 women, children and men were relocated.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and Heartland Alliance International (HAI) also provided support services in the form of training of 75 protection actors from government agencies, civil society organisations, and humanitarian organisations working in the Northeast Nigeria in a bid to tackle trafficking in persons in crisis situations.
The actors reaffirmed their commitment to not only promote the fight against drug trafficking and other related crimes but to make them become things of the past.
According to them, such commitments have become necessary given the “horrific dimensions’’ of the rising cases of human trafficking, with sexual exploitation of victims being the main driver.
Available data indicate that children account for 30 per cent of those being trafficked, and far more girls are detected than boys globally.
Stabilisation, provision of aid to refugees, and victims of insurgency especially in the Northeast are some of the other humanitarian assistance provided by the actors as a relief.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr Oliver Stolpe, at a humanitarian project steering and coordination committee meeting in Abuja, pledged that the office would redouble efforts aimed at tackling drug trafficking and crime in the sub-region.
The meeting was a European Union (EU)-funded project, with the theme, “Support to ECOWAS regional action plan on illicit drug trafficking, related organised crime and drug Abuse.”
Stolpe said, “This is not the end of the road only the closing of a chapter and the opening of a new one.
“UNODC will remain at the service of Nigeria and other ECOWAS member states in the implementation of their respective National Drug Control Master Plans, to address the multiple threats posed by illicit drugs trafficking.”
Also, the Head of Co-operation of EU, Mr Kurt Cornelis, promised to ensure that humanitarian projects were sustained to achieve targets over transnational border crime in the sub-region.
According to him, the fight against transnational organised crime remained a priority and of mutual interest to Nigeria, Africa, and EU.
“The EU welcomes the ongoing reflection on the draft `supplementary Act’ which could represent a renewed commitment of ECOWAS member states to prevention and control of illicit drugs trafficking and organised crime.
“We have a common and shared responsibility to implement evidence-based policies that can make a significant improvement. It requires a long-term multidisciplinary approach.
“We all need to strengthen our actions at national, regional, and international levels to accelerate the implementation of our joint commitments to encounter and address the world’s drug problem,” Cornelis said.
On her part, Dr Siga Fatima Jagne, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender at the ECOWAS Commission reaffirmed the commission’s commitment to carrying out action plans against drug trafficking and related crimes.
Jagne, who was represented by Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, Head of ECOWAS Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Risk Destruction at a humanitarian project meeting in Abuja, assured of the sub-regional body’s commitment to dealing with organised crime.
She said that the Commission had received 90 per cent of the total grant money amounting 2.929 million euros, adding that out of the sum 2.455 million euros, representing 84 per cent, was spent on humanitarian projects.
She also said that the remaining balance of about 16 per cent had been earmarked for auditing and other activities that would last until Nov. 16.
According to her, ECOWAS remains committed to building on what it has achieved so.
“I want to assure you that ECOWAS is very committed and would continue to do its best with all member states and partners to effectively fulfil its role in this important task,” she added.
Meanwhile, the UNDP in Nigeria had in a bid to assist Nigeria, inaugurated the Regional Stabilisation Facility which was anchored within the Regional Stabilisation Strategy (RSS) for Lake Chad, a ground-breaking initiative led by the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and adopted by its member states in Aug. 2018.
This initiative, an ambitious multi-million dollar fund to scale up the range of stabilisation intervention in areas of Lake Chad Basin, was inaugurated on July 2019 in Niamey, Niger at the second Governors Forum.
The Facility, which began operating on Sept. 1 is expected to run for two years in the eight affected regions of the 4 riparian countries (Cameroun, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria) and will serve as a rapid response mechanism to help the local authorities curtail the ability of Boko Haram insurgency by restoring and extending effective civilian security.
It is also to help improve the delivery of basic services and livelihoods.
Accordingly, the UNDP, Resident Representative in Nigeria, Mr Mohamed Yahaya during the first inaugural meeting of the ‘Nigerian window’, said that Nigeria would receive more than 30 million dollars from a total of 100 million dollars set aside for the facility in the four countries facing insurgency.
For Nigeria, the Facility is expected to facilitate recovery and stabilisation interventions including livelihood support for communities, massive civil engineering works, and strengthening of local security structure in the Northeastern states affected. It is expected to run for 2years.
The milestones recorded in the fight against drug and human trafficking and other organised crimes through support and assistance, call for sustained collaboration between members of the humanitarian community and other international organisations.
This implies that durable solutions are needed to address the risks and vulnerabilities of those most affected by the crisis, especially internally displaced people and refugees, and to reduce humanitarian needs.
To find such solutions, enhanced coherence and complementarity between humanitarian, stabilisation, crisis prevention, and development partners are required in adherence with their respective mandates.
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