• Hollande: Boko Haram Still a Threat
• Nigeria, France Sign Defence, Power Agreements
Demola Ojo with agency reports
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday said that terrorism has taken on an international dimension with effects beyond national borders. Buhari said this during a joint press conference he addressed with visiting President Francois Hollande of France at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Hollande on his part restated threat posed by the Boko Haram terrorist group reiterating that more needs to be done to totally defeat the terror group.
“International terrorism now with the help of technology and millions of volunteers respects no borders,” Buhari said at a Regional Security Summit that drew participation from leaders of neigbouring countries.
Cameroonian President, Paul Biya; Chadian President, Idriss Deby; Beninese President, Patrice Talon and Nigerien President, Mahamadou Issoufou attended the second Regional Security Summit.
The summit is a follow-up to an earlier one held in Paris two years ago, which focused on bolstering cooperation among Nigeria Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Benin in the battle to defeat Boko Haram.
British Foreign Minister, Philip Hammond; U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Tony Blinken and delegations from the European Union and West African and Central African blocs were also present.
The Nigerian President decried the effects of the raging conflict raging in the North-eastern part of the country.
“It is a lot of concern for people of conscience to learn that in Nigeria we have more than two million Internally Displaced Persons most of them women and children,” he said.
President Buhari gave credit for the success so far recorded by his administration in the anti-terrorism fight to the help of G7 nations, including France adding that support has come in the form of training Nigerian military personnel and the provision of military hardware among others.
But he said the main problem now is rehabilitation of destroyed infrastructure such as schools, health clinics, roads and bridges, as well as the displaced population.
“This is a pathetic situation and is a major problem we are going to face in this country,” Buhari said.
President Hollande explained that France provided training and equipment as part of the international support to Nigeria that includes British military trainers and US surveillance drones.
The French President expressed delight that good results had been achieved in the fight against Boko Haram since the first regional summit which his country hosted.
President Hollande pointed out that the Boko Haram group had been forced to lose ground and forced to give up territories they were controlling.
He also warned that because of Boko Haram’s links to ISIS and its status as “the world’s deadliest terrorist group”, it “remains a threat” and no-one should drop its guard.
“The results (of the counter-insurgency) are impressive” and the rebels had been “diminished and forced to retreat”, he told a news conference in Abuja.
He added: “This terrorist group nevertheless remains a threat.”
US Deputy Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken also warned against any premature declaration of victory. He said the US which has been flying surveillance drones over northeast Nigeria from a base in northern Cameroon, did not see Boko Haram as defeated.
He however conceded that “they have been degraded” and said the US was “extremely vigilant” about the connections, amid reports of Boko Haram rebels fighting in lawless Libya and the group’s ties to Al-Qaeda affiliates in the wider Sahel region.
“This is again something we are looking at very, very carefully because we want to cut it off,” he told reporters in Abuja on Friday.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond also warned on Boko Haram’s ties to ISIS and said progress was being made against the group with help from London, Paris and Washington. “But we must maintain the momentum to win the war, and build the right conditions for post-conflict stability in the region,” he added in a statement.
In a related development, Nigeria and France yesterday also signed a letter of intent that will further strengthen agreements in defence matters between both countries.
The two leaders also signed several accords strengthening existing cooperation, including through France’s main development agency, of upwards of $120 million (106 million euros) for Nigeria’s under-capacity electricity sector.
Addressing journalists yesterday, Hollande, said the letter embodies the cooperation between the two countries.
Hollande also reaffirmed a commitment to tighten financial regulations to help counter the threat of terrorism. He posited that terrorism is feeding off the weaknesses of the global financial system.
“Are we doing enough? We have achieved major progress already but this is not the end. So we shall continue to fight against all systems that enable all forms of trafficking – human trafficking happening in the Mediterranean, drug trafficking that has been linked with the terror activities and arms trafficking as well.”
The G7 and the G20 will discuss how to fight tax havens and countries not abiding by the rules he continued. “I will be leading the discussion on this in particular at G7 meeting next month,” Hollande said.