President Goodluck Jonathan
•Says Nigeria has no territorial ambition in Mali
•Five beheaded in Maiduguri
Olawale Olaleye and â€¨Alike Ejiofor in Lagos and Muhammad Bello in Geneva with Agency reportsâ€¨
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday described the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, as a threat not only to Nigeria, but also to the entire African continent and called for international efforts to curb its activities.
Jonathan, while fielding questions on a CNN programme, Amanpour, from the World Economic Forum, Davos said the sect was not fuelled by corruption or misrule as suggested by a section of the international community.
Earlier on Tuesday, the president, while addressing Nigerians resident in Switzerland, had explained that Nigeria’s involvement in the military campaign in Mali to rout Islamic militants from the Sahelian country was not for territorial gains.
In response to a question by the anchor of the programme, Christiane Amanpour, on the threat posed to the country by Boko Haram, Jonathan said: “Definitely, Boko Haram, if it is not contained, will be a threat, not only to Nigeria but to West Africa, Central Africa and of course to North Africa, because some elements of Boko Haram link up with some of Al-Qaeda (members) operating in Northern Mali and other North African countries.
“That is why the Nigerian government is totally committed to work with other nationals other friendly governments – to make sure that we contain the problems in Mali because as you rightly said, the issue of Libya tries to create more problems in the sub-region.”
On whether Nigeria is prepared for major terrorist attacks, the president stated that the Federal Government was working to avoid a repeat of the Algerian experience.
“Yes, of course, what happened in Algeria was quite unfortunate. That is why all the governments have been working day and night to prevent such excesses,” he added.
Jonathan debunked insinuations that Boko Haram was a resistance against corruption and misrule, saying the impression was created by some interests groups.
“No, no, no! Boko Haram is not as a result of misrule. Definitely, it is not. Sometimes, people feel that it is as a result of poverty but it is definitely not.
“Boko Haram is a local terror group and we call on the rest of the world to work with us because now we are talking about Algeria; we are talking about northern Mali; and our belief is that if we allow terror to exist in any part of the world, it will not just affect that country or that state, it will affect the rest of the globe. We should not play politics with Boko Haram,” he added.
The president also rejected claims by the United States’ State Department that security forces in Nigeria were driving more people into the arms of Boko Haram through indiscriminate killings and heavy high-handed crackdown on people who have nothing to do with the sect.
He also described as untrue, the allegation that the police were killing more people than Boko Haram.
“That is not correct. That is not correct. I have said it several times. These are insinuations by some interest groups. Definitely they are insinuations by some interests.
“People give wrong information to the State Department. The State Department of the United States has the means of knowing the truth. They should try and filter the truth. They have the means of knowing the truth,” he stressed.
When asked about the availability of electricity in Nigeria, the president said he would have preferred it if ordinary Nigerians on the streets of Lagos, Abuja or any other city were allowed to answer the question so they could testify to the improvement his administration has brought to the power sector.
“The commitment to improve power is working. So if you are saying something different, I am really surprised. That is one area that even the civil society members agree that government has kept faith with its promise.
“We have not got to where we should be, and of course, you know the power infrastructure is one investment that you must complete the chain you must generate; you must transmit; you must distribute. And even if you have the money and political will to do so, you cannot do it overnight.
“But we are working very hard and I promise you that before the end of this year, power will be reasonably stable in Nigeria. There has been a problem for years and you cannot correct it overnight. It takes time, even if you have the money,” the president said.
On the allegation that Nigerians are stealing crude oil, thereby milking the country dry, Jonathan said the international community was also involved in the theft because the stolen crude is being refined abroad.
“This issue of crude oil theft, yes I agree with you. However, we want the international community to support Nigeria because this stolen crude is being bought by refineries abroad and they know the crude oil is stolen,” he said.
The president on Tuesday also met with Nigerians in Switzerland during which he justified Nigeria’s involvement in the military campaign in Mali to rout Islamic militants from the Sahelian country.
The president said during the meeting in Geneva that Nigeria’s deployment of troops to Mali was not for territorial gains as it was in the nation’s interest to participate in the international efforts to dislodge the insurgents who are in control of the Northern part of Mali.
He said the decision to send the troops to Mali was based on the need to insulate Nigeria from the activities of Islamist insurgents and curtail the current wave of terror threatening to engulf the sub-Saharan region.
According to him, Nigeria does not have any territorial ambition in the neighbouring Mali, as its sole aim in participating in the military expedition is to protect its citizens and ensure that terrorists trained there and the weapons passing through the area never enter Nigeria.
He said: “Nigeria has no territorial interest in Mali. Going to Mali does not mean that we are trying to extend our territorial control to the country, no. We believe that if we don’t go there, the war going on there will affect us.”
The president, who lamented the escalation of violence in the northern part of Nigeria, which recently resulted in an attack on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, also said his administration was tackling the proliferation of Islamic insurgency in the country.
He said if the crisis in Mali was not managed, it might engulf Nigeria and many of its neighbours, adding: “That is why Nigeria is particularly interested in Mali, because the Northern part of Mali is now becoming a sanctuary for breeding terrorists that are trooping into West Africa and Northern Africa.
“If you don’t solve the problem of Mali, Nigerians will continue to sleep with one eye closed because the terrorists will move from Northern Mali to Niger, then Chad and of course Northern Nigeria.
“Almost 50 per cent of Boko Haram adherents are trained in Northern Mali. Most of the weapons they use come from Libya to Mali and then to Nigeria.”
On whether there is a conflict of interests between Nigeria and France on the latter’s position to pull out of the conflict zone, the president said Nigeria has a cordial working relationship with the European country.
The president comments on the insurgents preceded a new wave of terror by unknown gunmen on Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where they beheaded five persons.
According to a report by AFP, the gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram, attacked some locations within the Maiduguri metropolis yesterday.
"I saw the five decapitated bodies before they were taken away by soldiers from the (military task force)," one resident told AFP.
A military spokesman said in a statement that three persons were killed by the gunmen.
Several residents spoke of the beheadings, saying the attackers arrived at about 3 am, first killing a man and his son in one house, then two other residents in a second house, followed by the fifth victim in a third house.