President Goodluck Jonathan
Muhammad Bello and Senator Iroegbu
President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday reached out to the United States to assist Nigeria in tackling the spate of insurgency occasioned by the Boko Haram sect, and other security breaches bedevilling the nation.
Jonathan, who hosted the Commander of the United States’ Africa Command (USAFRICOM), General Carter Ham, at the State House, enumerated various security challenges facing the country and urged the US to come to the aid of his administration.
The problems he listed were: Boko Haram, policing the nation’s extensive maritime borders, crude oil theft and kidnapping.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, quoted Jonathan as expressing concern over terrorism in Nigeria caused by the activities of the Islamic sect.
“The president said Nigeria was facing various security challenges such as Boko Haram, policing the nation’s extensive maritime borders, crude oil theft and kidnapping, and called on the US to support the government’s efforts to find lasting solutions to these problems.
“President Jonathan also briefed Gen. Ham on his visit to Mali and the efforts by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to resolve the conflict in that country, adding that the situation could still be contained if the right steps are taken quickly,” the statement said.
Jonathan’s overture to Ham for US’ assistance to combat insecurity in Nigeria is coming on the heels of a similar plea to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who visited Nigeria in August.
During the visit, the US had offered to assist Nigeria to monitor the movement of goods, particularly weapons and explosive devices smuggled to the Islamic sect through Nigerian and Camerounian borders.
The president also expressed his government’s appreciation to the US for its commitment to ensuring a safer and secured world and commended it for its role in global peace and security.
He congratulated President Barrack Obama on his re-election, and commended the smooth conduct of US elections.
Responding, Ham said he seized the opportunity of his visit to hold talks with heads of Nigeria’s security agencies on ways to strengthen the partnership between Nigerian and American forces.
He said the US was ready to cooperate with Nigeria in areas such as maritime security, communications, development of civil-military capabilities and resolving the conflict in Mali.
The USAFRICOM Commander, however, expressed concern over the increasing connectivity and collaboration between the network of Al-Qaeda affiliates and adherents in Africa, including the Boko Haram sect.
Making this known when he visited the Nigerian Defence College in Abuja, Ham said since the Al-Qaeda core had been significantly weakened, the group has simply mutated into various affiliate organisations, especially in the Middle East and Africa that are increasingly coordinating resources and intelligence to carry out their terrorist acts.
He noted that the Al-Qaeda networks and affiliate, including Boko Haram, are changing in ways that increase threats to individual African states and regional stability, as well as to the US and International security interests.
He said: “What is particularly worrisome to me is the increasing linkage between various elements of the network, which significantly increases the ability of violent extremist organisations to threaten regional security and broader African and US security interests.
“Violent extremist organisations such as Boko Haram are not only increasing their connectivity with each other, but are also increasingly collaborating with criminal networks and taking advantage of the same security vulnerabilities exploited by criminal organisations to advance their capabilities and goals.”
The USAFRICOM Commander stressed that military might alone would not solve terrorist activities, adding that it would required an overarching and comprehensive strategy to tackle the security challenge.
“Although security forces have a prominent role in addressing Boko Haram issue, an effective and, lasting solution will require a broad based strategy that addresses underlying social and economic issues and uses judicial tools to prosecute the perpetrators of violence,” he said
Ham commended Nigeria’s peace keeping efforts in Mali and listed other areas of shared interests and challenges to include counter- terrorism, peacekeeping, maritime and border security.
He disclosed that one of the success stories of the cooperation, especially through the USAFRICOM arrangement, was the recent arrest of four people and seizure of over $9 million illicit cash at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos by a joint team of Nigeria and US security personnel.
“In an example of US-Nigeria cooperation in this area, the US military and law enforcement agencies recently conducted a joint operation with a Nigerian law enforcement team at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, that led to the arrest of four individuals and the seizure of over $9 million in illicit cash,” he said.