A Stitch In Time Saves Nine, By Hameed M Bello, PhD


‘A stitch in time saves nine’ is an idiomatic expression which means that when you tackle a problem head-on at its early stage, you are more likely to prevent it from becoming full-blown, to the extent that it could be controlled in the long run. In other words, it is better to fix a problem when it is small than to wait and let it become a bigger problem. That way you are able to save energy, time, resources and have a balanced state of affairs that will be devoid of fear or uncertainty.

There emerged the urgent need to tackle a brewing new threat against our common national and sub-regional security without equivocation before it snowballs into an intractable challenge that defies solution. It requires an approach that must be direct, total, abrupt, blunt and without prevarication.

President Muhammadu Buhari himself raised the alarm. The president is not known to talk conjecturally, half-heartedly or perfunctorily on matters of national and sub-regional security. That is why his alarm recently of the new wave of movement of arms and ammunition into the Lake Chad region of Nigeria from the war zones in Ukraine and Russia cannot be treated with kid gloves.

President Buhari had called for more vigilance and tightening of security around borders over the increased number of arms, ammunition, and other weapons from the Russia-Ukraine war in the Lake Chad Basin. Buhari said the threat by terrorists in the region had been relatively brought under control, noting however that the influx of weapons poses fresh challenges. The president, who is chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Government, said this at the 16th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in Abuja last Tuesday.

“It must however be stated that despite the successes recorded by the gallant troops of the MNJTF and the various ongoing national operations in the region, terrorist threats still lurk in the region.

“Regrettably, the situation in the Sahel and the raging war in Ukraine serve as major sources of weapons and fighters that bolster the ranks of the terrorists in the Lake Chad Region. A substantial proportion of the arms and ammunition procured to execute the war in Libya continues to find its way to the Lake Chad Region and other parts of the Sahel.

“Weapons being used for the war in Ukraine and Russia are equally beginning to filter to the region.

“This illegal movement of arms into the region has heightened the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which continues to threaten our collective peace and security in the region. There is, therefore, the urgent need for expedited collaborative actions by our border control agencies and other security services to stop the circulation of all illegal weapons in the region,” President Buhari was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his spokesman, Femi Adesina.

The president stated that the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) deserved commendation for various operations that had brought measurable stability to the Lake Chad Basin.

“The threat of Boko Haram terrorism in the Lake Chad area no doubt brought to the fore the imperative of enhanced collaboration among the defense forces of the region in the face of a common aggressor.

“I am pleased that through the Multinational Joint Task Force we responded to the challenge, proving beyond reasonable doubt that with the requisite commitment and determination, the region can solve its challenges in the best ways possible.

“The MNJTF has indeed become a model, breaking physical barriers, and affirming the workability of the common approach to conquer challenges in the area.

“Permit me, therefore, to pay tribute to the untiring efforts of the officers and men of the Multinational Joint Task Force and our various National Armed Forces who continue to make remarkable sacrifices in the fight against terrorism in the region.

“The efforts and memories of these gallant soldiers, some of whom have paid the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty for the survival and restoration of stability to the region, will never be forgotten,” he said.

President Buhari further reiterated that during the period under review and with the support of Heads of State, efforts and funding were sustained for the MNJTF to ensure that it delivers on its mandate of ensuring a safe and secure environment in the region.

He, however, urged the leaders to complement the fight against terrorism with development, saying: “Although terrorist threats have been significantly decimated in the region, it is worthy of note that military actions alone cannot effectively win the war against terrorism.

“There is the overriding need to complement military operations with the provision of sustainable development projects that will ameliorate the living conditions of the affected people in the region.

“Government presence must be positively felt in the area to restore the confidence of citizens in the ability of the state to protect them and provide basic infrastructure for all.

“It is in view of the foregoing, that the implementation of the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery, and Resilience of the Boko Haram affected Areas of the region must gain further traction without any delay.

“I am glad to note the development, costing, and validation of the territorial action plans for the eight Boko Haram most affected territories of the region, ” the president said.

The president’s speech is a clarion call to all LCBC members to redouble efforts to curtail new inflow of weapons from Ukraine and Russia which could worsen the insecurity around the countries bordering the Lake Chad. Key also is his call to bring more development to the area which could indirectly reduce the spate of insecurity in the area.

The aims of the commission as given are to regulate and control the use of water and other natural resources in the basin and to initiate, promote, and coordinate natural resource development projects and research. But terrorists have found the Lake area a comfortable tactical and operational base for continued terrorist activities. The new weapons coming into the Lake Chad area from the theater of war in Ukraine/ Russia will certainly fuel more terror threats. A more coordinated intelligence action is required to trail and track the movements of illicit weapons. All hands must be on deck by all member nations because a threat to any one nation is a threat to all nations around Lake Chad.

Recall that the Chad Basin includes eight countries, which, in descending area of land, are: Chad, Niger, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Sudan, Algeria, and Libya. Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad (the four countries directly containing parts of Lake Chad and its wetlands) signed the Fort Lamy Convention on May 22, 1964, which created the Lake Chad Basin Commission. The Central African Republic joined in 1996, and Libya joined in 2008. Sudan was admitted in July 2000, but has observer status because it has not ratified the founding convention. Algeria has not yet participated, but is expected to do so in the future. The other countries with observer status are Egypt—in the neighbouring Nile Basin—and the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo which are fed by the Ubangi River being considered for diversion into Lake Chad. The member countries fund the commission’s $1 million annual budget based on a formula agreed-upon: Nigeria 52%, Cameroon 26%, Chad 11%, Niger 7%, and the Central African Republic 4%.


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