The coronavirus pandemic has not only forced states to shut down economically, unfortunately, it has also forced humanitarian responses around the world to come to a grinding halt. With Boko Haram (BH) campaigns still very much alive – tragically claiming over 70 people recently in Gubio (Borno State) – Shekau’s new call to bandits in the North West of Nigeria, asking them to join his cause, provides a worrying perspective to the decades-old insurgency. Lately, particularly since January, Nigeria has witnessed a spike in the level of insecurity. There has been a significant rise in banditry, kidnapping and farmer-herder clashes defining the BH insurgency as a resilient force despite the efforts of the Nigerian military. Indeed, the insecurity across the north has forced the Nigeria Police to withdraw in some areas for the military to take over.
The novel coronavirus disease [COVID-19] that has brought the world to a stop has further problematised all efforts put in place to fight the larger issue of insecurity and the narrow challenge of insurgency within the country. Invariably, several conflict situations within the country appear to have regressed to the back burner in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, most credible security monitoring and reporting of these issues have virtually come to a complete stop in the conflict regions.
The media and intellectuals now rely on government and military press releases for situation updates. In the North East, NGO staff have reportedly been evacuated out of the region, a situation which has stopped containment efforts on the trajectory of this terrifying human tragedy. The new wave of banditry in the North West, and particularly the recent attack in Faskari LGA (Katsina State) which provoked widespread protests in the state, leaves no one in doubt about the spreading reach of the insurgency, which is apparently set to clip off the upper cone of the Nigerian geography.
Seen from this perspective, therefore, it is imperative that stakeholders in the security sector come together for a holistic review of the impact of Covid-19 on the several conflicts facing the country and to proceed in proposing strategies to mitigate the impact of the current global situation in so far as it affects the Nigerian security condition. This is important so that the conflict and the humanitarian situation does not continue to deteriorate even as we battle the pandemic.
Towards this end, therefore, the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism [PTCIJ] is hosting a two-hour webinar that will bring together stakeholders across the security corridor to discuss: “CONFLICT PATTERNS AND THE HUMANITARIAN CHALLENGES SINCE THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC IN NIGERIA’S INSURGENCY REGION.”