The United Nations has said that the security challenges in West Africa and the Sahel, caused by the blood-letting activities of Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State West Africa Province were made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the global organisation, the rising spate of violent attacks since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out early this year, was an indication that the disease had had no negative effect on activities of the terrorists in Nigeria and other countries in West Africa and the Sahel.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, stated this at the National Institute for Security Studies, Abuja, on Thursday.
Chambas, who delivered the Graduation Lecture for Participants of the Executive Intelligence Management Course tagged, ‘COVID-19: Myths, Really and Challenges to Economic Development and Security,’ maintained that the deadly virus has also impacted negatively on the socio-economic development of the region.
Participants of the EIMC 13 were drawn from the military, security, para-military and law enforcement agencies in the country, the Gambia and Ghana, not below the deputy directorate cadre.
The UN official called for a multi-government and multi-stakeholders’ approach to mitigating the far-reaching effects of the viral disease.
“It is not lost on lost on anyone’s mind that violent extremism perpetrated by non-state armed groups in parts of West Africa and the Sahel, is the current most pressing security dilemma in the region”, Chambas said.
He submitted further that the attacks by Boko Haram and the ISWAP within the Lake Chad general area, as well as the Sahel in the month of March, resulted in significant losses in the ranks of defence and security forces of Nigeria, Chad and Niger republic.
He said this was “indicative of the fact that the pandemic is yet to have a deterrent effect on their (terrorists’) activities.”
Chambas noted, “The overall security situation in the region grew in complexity due to exacerbation of conflicts by the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected national response capacity to insecurity and further radicalized the narrative of extremist groups, who blamed governments for the impact of the health crisis on populations.
“On 9 March, at the onset of the virus in the region, Islamic State encouraged its fighters to increase attacks while governments are struggling to manage the pandemic.
“Additionally, militants’ have attempted to win over local populations by portraying the pandemic as punishment against non-believers going further to provide their version of psycho-social support to populations of cuttting areas where they control in Lake Chad Basin and the tri-border areas of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
“The terrorist groups in West Africa and the Sahel failed or refused to adhere to the appeal of the Secretary-General for a global cessation of hostilities or ceasefire due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In his address, the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Mr Yusuf Bichi, said the intelligence and security sector, like others, were gravely impacted by the novel coronavirus disease.
He, nonetheless, noted that the secret service would never waiver in “its mandate of detecting and preventing crimes against the state.”