When Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh announced a ceasefire with the Boko Haram insurgents on October 17, many Nigerians were pleasantly surprised. He also disclosed that Chad and its former colonial masters, France, were brokering a peace deal that would not only end the violence in the Northeastern states, but also facilitate the unconditional release of the Chibok schoolgirls, kidnapped over eight months ago. Soon after, Boko Haram disowned the negotiators and alluded to the gullibility of the Nigerian government for believing President Idris Derby.
That N’Djamena isn’t interested in peace in the troubled part of Nigeria should have been gleaned from the attitude of that country towards the delegation sent by President Goodluck Jonathan on October 21. The delegation was told that Dérby was ill and that the meeting should be rescheduled for October 23. However, on that date, the delegation was told that the Chadian leader was still ill, after they had waited for six hours! President Jonathan, himself, has had over five meetings with Derby, with the result being more ambushes, killing and sarcastic repudiation by both the insurgents and his hosts.
As the insurgency has intensified, the federal and state governments have displayed unbelievable eagerness to jump at fake offers of peace deals, which have only led to gains by Boko Haram, Chad and probably a few individuals in government circles. We feel sad that the security and intelligence agencies have allowed Nigeria to be exposed to too many avoidable hoaxes. Cameroon’s intelligence community has rightly viewed the Chadian government’s offers of help with suspicion. We should do the same. In many instances, after raids by the insurgents, the nation’s military hardware and property are traced to Chad. Worse still is the evidence of close links between Chad, local Nigerian politicians, Chadian politicians and the Boko Haram insurgents. It brings more tellingly the suspicion that Chadian territory is a safe haven for recruitment and supplies for the sect and for launching attacks on Nigeria.
Chad has not said a word to Nigeria since the failed ceasefire agreement; it has not communicated with the government. Amazingly, in our view, the Nigerian government has not asked the necessary question – are we dealing with a friend or foe? We, therefore, urge the security and diplomatic functionaries to beam the searchlight on the plausibility of Chadian interest prolonging the conflict, because of the huge deposit of crude oil in the Lake Chad region that both countries share. Chad is already benefiting from the inability of Nigeria to commence commercial exploration of oil in the region due to the ongoing insurgency. Under the Rule of Capture, Nigeria’s neighbours can legally draw oil from reserves located in the region, provided they do the drilling exclusively in their own territory.
The situation, in our opinion, calls for more decisive action on the part of the Nigerian government. The big brother role is obviously becoming a burden.