Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Boni Haruna and Youth Development

Mr. Boni Haruna has been assigned the herculean task of managing the largest and most complex segment of the Nigerian population- the youths. Latest statistics show that youths occupy over seventy percent of the Nigerian population. As Minister of youth development, Mr. Boni Haruna is to promote and plan positive youth development including executing the federal government youth development programmes and projects.

The big question is, can Boni Haruna accomplish the task and replicate the remarkable achievement in youth development he had when he was Governor of Adamawa state? During his tenure as Governor and even afterwards, the strongest part of Boni’s support have been the youths. This is mainly due to the programmes and project he executed that changed the lives of many young people in Adamawa state. 

Boni Haruna understands the craft of governance, so, he would surely bring big and new ideas in implementing the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Youth Development- ‘to promote the physical, mental and socio-economic development of Nigerian youth through the advancement and protection of their rights within the Nigerian state, the promotion of their welfare and provision of opportunities for their self actualization and the introduction of policies and programmes entrenching such rights and responsibilities in all facets of public governance’.

There is no doubt youths in Nigeria are facing myriad of problems that cannot be solved in a short time, but the problem are not insurmountable. Boni Haruna is a person that understands and shares the Nigerian youth’s expectations from the government and the larger society. Boni will definitely bring a lot of changes in youth development, especially in the areas of education, sport, entrepreneurship, agriculture, and more importantly, the NYSC programme.

The Ministry of Youth Development is a special ministry, all other federal ministries need its input and it also needs support from other ministries. Boni is well-read and certainly understands inter-ministry synergy in the system of governance. He will collaborate with the Ministry of Education to recreate and rebuild the hitherto weak foundation for youth vocational and skill education. He will also bring new ideas and thinking into policy planning and effective management of the youth skill development.

Youth participation in agriculture is one of the key programmes of the Jonathan administration. Boni being the advocate of youth self reliance will also work on developing and redefining the implementation strategies for youth participation in agriculture in such a way that youths are made the central focus. This is because the agriculture sector is key to protecting the future of the Nigerian economy. And it is only by actively engaging the youths in the sector can this be achieved.

The NYSC is an important parastatal in the Federal Ministry of youth development. Boni being a man that understands the importance of the NYSC would definitely give the scheme all it requires to make it relevant in the 21st century. Under Boni’s leadership, we will certainly see an NYSC that is structured to current Nigerian and global realities.

Mr. Boni Haruna as minister of youth development will champion and marshal youth participation in the Nigerian economy and equip our youths with knowledge and skills to face emerging issues in the context of globalization.

Zayyad I. Muhammad, writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Where Boko Haram Gets Its Weapons

Boko Haram is conducting its campaign of terror in the northeastern states of Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon on the cheap, making mayhem with a makeshift collection of small arms, automatic weapons, rifles, rocket- propelled grenades and mortars, experts on the turbulent region say.

According to US network TV NBC, most of the Islamic terror group’s weapons are either stolen from Nigerian military stocks or purchased on the thriving Central African arms black market, say the experts, including current and former U.S. officials.

Many have often wondered where the insurgents source their weaponry from, given both the sophistication and the sheer number.

The group blamed for last month’s kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls routinely raids police stations and military bases in search of weapons, they say. In some cases, Boko Haram sympathizers in the Nigerian military abet the theft.

“There are hints that sympathizers in the Nigerian army will deliberately leave doors of armouries unlocked for Boko Haram," said John Campbell, U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007.

A top military officer was indicted several years ago in Kaduna, for supplying the weapons of the Nigerian army to Niger Delta militants, led by, now jailed, Henry Orkah.
In addition to weapons, the rebels frequently seize non-lethal equipment that helps them carry out their terror attacks, said one U.S. official, citing a raid last week on an open market in northeast Nigeria that left 310 people dead.

That attack, according to local reports, was carried out by men in Nigerian military uniforms who arrived in Nigerian military armored personnel carriers (APCs).

Apart from benefiting from sympathizers in the Nigerian military, the Islamic terror group is able to purchase small arms and occasionally some larger weaponry in nearby conflict zones, “probably Libya, probably Chad,” said the official, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity.

However, these arms are not being acquired systematically from other militant groups – including al Qaeda and its African affiliates -- but through "shady, black market" arrangements across barely marked borders, as the official put it.

The porousness of the Nigerian borders has also encouraged the proliferation of the country with illegal arms
Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counter Terrorism Center and now an NBC News analyst, says Central Africa is brimming with weapons, a situation made worse when the Libyan arms depots were looted during the 2011 Arab Spring.

"The collapse of Libya has further flooded the market,” said Leiter. "Whether these came from Chad, Nigeria, or Libya is almost irrelevant, as such arms are widely available."

Arms trade expert William M. Hartung agrees. "It's one conflict after another," he said. "Because of the nature of the conflict … the concentration of conflicts … the black market in Central Africa is more vibrant than other places.”

Campbell, the former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, says the array of small and automatic weapons, grenades, mortars, mines and perhaps car bombs "is all Boko Haram’s soldiers need to carry out their brand of terrorism."

Officials in Cameroon on Tuesday showed reporters, including NBC News' Stephanie Gosk, a cache of weapons they said was seized near the Nigerian border last month following a rescue of some other kidnapped victims. A Cameroon defense ministry spokesman said the cache represents what they are up against on a daily basis in trying to combat Boko Haram, showing off a variety of weaponry including Russian-made AK-47s.

U.S. officials, Leiter and Campbell all dismiss the idea that Al Qaeda or its African affiliates are supplying Boko Haram with weapons.

"We'd caution against the notion that any significant quantity of weapons would be provided by AQ," either Al Qaeda Central or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, said one U.S. official.

Leiter notes there has been reporting that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has provided Boko Haram fighters with some training since 2009 – a period that coincides with the latter’s adoption of “aggressive and sophisticated attacks.”

"It is hard to say this is a causal relationship, but these are the sorts of concerns such engagement produces,” he said.

Hartung, now director of the Arms and Security Project at Center for International Policy, says that despite the ubiquity of weapons in Central Africa, there are ways to at least crimp the black market. He points to efforts by the United Nations to stem the arms trade in southern Africa a decade ago.
"The problem is that there hasn’t been a recent effort to shut down the networks," said Hartung. "The U.N. did some good research tracking how guns get to conflict zones around 2000. There were marking and tracing efforts for guns and bullets, efforts to track financial transactions. Now that's gone, so even the naming and shaming aspect hasn’t been happening."