This Day (Lagos)

11 May 2014

Africa: Boko Haram - Nigeria, U.S., France, UK, Cameroon, Chad, Niger Meet in Paris

Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Nigerian Minister of Education and World Bank vice president, addressing a BringBackOurGirls protest in Abuja. ( Resource: Obiageli Ezekwesili Addressing BringBackOurGirls Protest in Abuja

Nigerian Army mounts rescue mission for abducted schoolgirls Interpol pledges support.

In order to effectively tackle the menace of the deadly religious sect, Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan, President Paul Biya of Cameroon, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic and President Idriss Deby of Chad will meet in Paris soon in a move initiated by the United States, France and United Kingdom.

THISDAY gathered last night that the meeting is aimed at evolving a global military strategy to combat the violent sect, which has become a cross border terror group carrying out campaign of terror across the Sahel region.

Though, it could not be confirmed if US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron would attend in person, French President Francois Hollande is expected to chair the meeting.

The upcoming Paris meeting will work out ways by which joint missions from Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon can effectively tackle the terrorist group that has claimed thousands of lives in the last five years.

The full cooperation of Chad, Niger and Cameroon - all of which share land borders with Nigeria - is seen as a prerequisite for an effective campaign against the sect.

Boko Haram is 90 per cent Kanuri-based with its membership drawn from the Kanuri of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Boko Haram has been launching attacks from those territories on communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, with the latest being the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State.

Some of the schoolgirls abducted were reported to have been ferried across Nigerian borders into the territories of the two neighbouring countries.

The three western nations had stepped up their support for Nigeria to combat the sect following the abduction of the schoolgirls.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has posted troops from two divisions to hunt for the over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped last month by the terror group. The Director of Defence Intelligence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, who disclosed this at the weekend, said the soldiers were stationed in the border region close to Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic to work with other security agencies. News about the troop deployment came as President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday at Oporoza, in Gbaramatu Kingdom of Delta State, that the International Police (Interpol) had vowed to help Nigeria to solve the abduction incident. Jonathan revealed the Interpol commitment at the groundbreaking ceremonies of the NIMASA Shipyard and Dockyard, Okerenkoko, and Nigeria Maritime University at Kurutie, projects under the auspices of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The Nigerian government has been criticised for its slow response to the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram on April 14. They were writing the school certificate examination when Boko Haram insurgents snatched them from the school's hostels. About 50 of the girls have escaped, while more than 200 remain in captivity. The kidnapping of the girls caused international outrage, with many countries, including the United States, Britain, France, and China, offering to assist in their rescue.

Another set of eight girls from Warabe village also in Borno State were kidnapped by the insurgents on May 5.

In a statement at the weekend, Olukolade said, "The facilities of the Nigerian Army signals as well as all the communication facilities of the Nigeria Police and all the services have been devoted into coordinating this search."

He said, however, that the military authorities faced a major challenge with the information they received in their effort to solve the abduction, as they often turned out to be misleading.

Olukolade said the Air Force had made more than 250 sorties, while a signals unit and the police were also involved in the search for the girls believed to be held in the Sambisa forest in Borno State. A multinational task force has also been activated and surveillance equipment deployed in support of 10 search teams, he said.

In Delta State yesterday, Jonathan said the abducted girls could not have been sold into slavery, as claimed in a video released by a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader.

"I just had a communication with the president of Interpol who said they were ready to key with the Nigerian government to search the whole world. Wherever these girls are, we must get them. And I believe that no sane person will attempt to kill those girls," Jonathan said, adding, "Definitely, they cannot buy any of those girls."

Jonathan was in Gbaramatu Kingdom to participate in efforts to rebuild the area, which was a militant stronghold at the height of the Niger Delta armed struggle in agitation for a fairer share of the region's huge oil resources. The area had faced air and land bombardment by the military as it tried to dislodge the armed groups.

The president recalled his visit to Gbaramatu Kingdom in 2007 as vice president to then President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua to negotiate for amnesty for the militants. "I was here on a journey when nobody could smile. It was a very tense situation because there were so many crises in this part of the country. That tells us clearly that without peace, there will not be development on earth.

"Collectively, we will rebuild this community now that there is peace. We are pleased with this community, we are pleased with the Niger Delta for now, generally Niger Delta is relatively peaceful and that is why development is now coming in," Jonathan said.

Meanwhile, as part of the international effort to end the Boko Haram insurgency, Nigeria and the U.S. are said to be working on a UN Security Council resolution to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation. Diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja confirmed this at the weekend. The designation would help to starve the group of arms and funds by blocking supplies to it from across the world.

The governments of Nigeria, U.S, U.K. and Canada have variously designated Boko Haram a terrorist organisation. The U.S., in addition to designating Boko Haram a terrorist organisation, declared Shekau as the ninth most wanted person in the world and placed a seven million-dollar reward on information that could led to his capture.

The Nigerian government on its part has announced a reward of N50 million for information that could lead to the rescue of the abducted girls.

The Security Council has vowed to bring all perpetrators of human rights abuses in the North-east conflict to justice under national and international laws.

Also, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said in Geneva on Friday that the attacks and devastation visited on civilian populations by the insurgents in the North-east were unprecedented.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Adrian Edwards, said, "The past two months have seen multiple kidnappings and deaths, creating population displacement both inside Nigeria and into neighbouring countries."

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