Following the upsurge in the Boko Haram insurgency the North-East geopolitical zone, Nigeria has entered into agreement with France and four of its neighbours to increase the level of coordination and exchange of intelligence as well as hold regular meetings of experts with a view to containing the menace.
The Republic of Benin, Cameroon, France, Chad and Niger also agreed with Nigeria to ensure effective policing of common borders to avoid the infiltration of terrorists and other criminals as well as the repatriation of suspects in conformity with existing protocols.
These are some of the recommendations made by the Directors-General of External Intelligence Services of the six countries, who met in Abuja on March 5.
The one-day meeting with the theme "Challenges of Combating Boko Haram in the Sub-region" was facilitated and declared open by the National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki and attended by the Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, Heads of Security and Paramilitary Organisations, representatives of Heads of the External Intelligence Services, Director-General of State Security Service, and representatives of the Commander of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army and representatives of the French Intelligence Service, all of who made presentations.
The meeting was held behind closed doors at the conference room of Nigeria's Defence Intelligence Agency but PREMIUM TIMES became aware of its details last Thursday.
The Boko Haram insurgency has claimed thousands of lives in Nigeria, particularly in the north eastern flank of the country since 2009. Besides, the activities of the dreaded sect have seriously damaged the economy and reputation of the region.
Although, he declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, President Goodluck Jonathan has increasingly come under attack for allegedly not adopting other method of curtailing the sect.
The recent meeting of the Directors-General of External Intelligence Services is believed to be a boost to the activities of the Multi-national task force comprising troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
The meeting also recommended that the doctrine proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan that "an act of terror against one nation is an act of terror against all," be adopted by Heads of State of participating states and that "the reaction of member-states to acts of terror be spontaneous, concerted, broad-based and integrated."
It further recommended the effective implementation of existing regional and Confidential Agreements on Small Arms Light Weapons; the sensitization of the local communities in border areas on the need to assist military and security agencies with timely information necessary for their operations; and the discouragement of payment of ransom in all its ramifications.
It noted that due to the sensitive nature of defence matters, and to allow for members with the appropriate competences to participate, a meeting involving competent law enforcement officers to include Heads of the Armed Forces, Police, Immigration, Customs and Gendarmes of the five countries be convened before the end of March, to discuss the conduct of simultaneous security operations along the borders.
That meeting, where modalities for a joint military offensive is being worked out, is ongoing in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital.
The Abuja meeting also decided to recommend to heads of state of member states to consider the formation of a Joint Multinational Task Force and other related operational issues to combat the menace.
The forum, which broke into thematic groups based on the issues raised in the presentations, also agreed as follows:
-Acknowledged and appreciated existing cooperation between intelligence and security services of participating countries;
-Recognized that Boko Haram has metamorphosed into a regional phenomenon with strong continental and global reach;
-Noted that the activities of the Boko Haram constitute the most potent security threat to Nigeria and her neighbours with the goal of an Islamic State in Nigeria and eventually in neighbouring countries;
-Noted Boko Haram's propensity to instigate ethno-religious conflicts, erode the confidence of people in Government and create a condition of chaos with the use of sophisticated weapons, including Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs), Rocket Launchers and Man Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS).
-Accepted that Boko Haram has established operational relations with international jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Shabab, Ansar-e-Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO);
-Noted the increasing correlation between terrorism and arms, drugs and human trafficking, smuggling, violent crime and the militarization of the civilian population of member countries;
-Expressed concern that terrorism has continued to thrive in the sub-region due to the proliferation of arms, the explosion of Information and Communication technology (ICT), expansion of terrorist networks, easy availability of recruits and existence of safe havens.