I thank the Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the committee, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to express my profound appreciation to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade for the invitation extended to me to respond to the concerns raised by the Church in Chains on some of the security challenges confronting my country as it relates to the Boko Haram insurgency, the continued attacks on communities by Fulani herdsmen as well as the lingering issue of the abducted Chibok girls.
I wish to recall that the former ambassador and her predecessor had, at the committee's invitation, on different occasions addressed this august body on the activities of Boko Haram and the counter-insurgency efforts by the Government of Nigeria under the previous administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. My presentation, therefore, will only focus on the specific questions addressed to the embassy vis-à-vis the Government's exertions to resolve the issue under the current Administration.
Distinguished parliamentarians, the activities of Boko Haram in the north-eastern parts of Nigeria, particularly in the Borno and Yobe States, have resulted in wanton destruction of the lives and properties of our citizens which brought about disruption of socio-economic activities in that region. Since assuming office last May, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the overhaul of the security services' rules of engagement. He has demanded an improved operational and legal mechanism to prosecute proven human rights violations by the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The President has also directed the relocation of the command and control centre on terrorism from Abuja to Maiduguri in Borno State, the main theatre of the operations against Boko Haram.
Similarly, the President has also ordered the review of the overall security architecture in the country so as to erect and maintain efficient and disciplined security personnel, in conformity with international standards.
As a result of these efforts, the military is better equipped now and their operations are beginning to yield the desired results.
In a bid to incapacitate and further degrade the insurgents, the Nigerian military has continued to carry out sustained air strikes in Sambisa forest, the main enclave of the group. This approach by the military has no doubt scaled down the insurgents' operations. The only challenge confronting Nigeria at the moment is the isolated cases of suicide bombings on soft targets from time to time, which the government is striving to contain. There have been recent arrests of young children used by the insurgents as well as some key masterminds of suicide bombings.
Albeit there are successes in the arrest of some of the kingpins behind recruiting children in carrying out the suicide attacks, the suicide attacks still occasionally occur across the northern part of the country. It is, however, pertinent to note that the swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory captured by Boko Haram have now all been retrieved by the military and people are beginning to return to their towns and villages. The directive by the president to the military is that the operation against the insurgents should be completed by 31 December 2015.
As of today there are approximately 2 million displaced Nigerians as a result of the insurgency in the different internally displaced persons, IDP, camps in the affected region. To provide immediate relief as a palliative measure to the victims, the government has deployed resources to deradicalise and rehabilitate victims of Boko Haram and the services rendered in the IDP camps are being improved to cater for the people affected by this menace.
The Nigerian President mentioned in his inaugural speech that the Government cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other persons held hostage by the insurgents. He further said that he would do all in his power to rescue all the Chibok girls alive. At the moment, there are no intelligence reports to establish where the girls are currently being held hostage by the insurgents. However, it is hoped that the outcome of the current onslaught by the military in Sambisa forest, the main enclave of Boko Haram, may soon provide directions to the location of the Chibok girls.
As regards the threat posed by Boko Haram in the region, President Buhari on assumption of office, has continued to drum up support from our neighbours, namely Cameroon, Niger and Chad for a strengthened joint border patrol. Also, while participating at the last G7 Summit in June 2015 held in Schloss Elmau, in Germany and the Peace and Security Council meeting in South Africa on 13 June, the president spoke about the operations of the Boko Haram terror group and its global dimension.
The president while briefing the G7, entreated for support to bolster the joint multinational task force, MNJTF, to enable its smooth operation. Members may be aware the joint multinational task force has about 8,700 contingents of military personnel drawn from Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republic. Nigeria has pledged the sum of $100 million for the operations of the joint multinational task force and the president has directed the release of $21 million to the force. The African Union has also approved the sum of $30 million for the force, while the US Government has pledged $5 million and other incentives including training of personnel to boost the operations of the joint multinational task force against Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is not the only security issue bedevilling my country. The spate of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers and the issue of cattle rustlers constitutes a major security challenge to Nigeria. However, the president has charged the military to address the challenges posed by these crises. On the part of government, the president endorsed the collaboration of the affected states comprising Plateau, Benue, Kaduna Kebbi and Zamfara with security agencies to constantly review the progress on the matter. Following the establishment of the platform, a number of arrests have been made and stolen items have been returned to the rightful owners. A military battalion has been stationed by government in Plateau State to maintain peace. There are however isolated cases of clashes mostly between the Fulanis and farmers. This occurs intermittently.
The threat of terrorism in some parts of Nigeria remains an issue of serious national security concern and Nigeria can only win the war with the support of friendly nations such as Ireland. The recent achievements by our security agencies in the fight to defeat terrorism is not unconnected with the government's efforts in overhauling the security architecture as well as the external support President Buhari has continued to receive.
Boko Haram insurgency has so far claimed more than12,000 lives with more than 8,000 persons injured or maimed. Boko Haram has also displaced thousands of innocent Nigerians especially in the border communities and destroyed properties worth billions of naira. It is therefore obvious that the activity of this terror group has wreaked havoc on the economic and social life of Nigerians. It is obvious that the Boko Haram insurgency is certainly not a religious war as both Christians and Muslims have been killed and places of worship destroyed.
This briefing session organised by the joint committee is a clear demonstration of the concern and empathy of the Government and people of Ireland for the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria over the current security challenges facing my country. I also commend the Church in Chains on its work in reporting some of these conflicts around the world.
I thank the people of Ireland and the international community for the continued support and solidarity Nigeria is receiving to subvert terrorism not only in the country but also in the sub-region. I thank members for their kind attention.