We have declared war- Paul Biya
French P.M confirms Sunday Vanguard exclusives on Al-Qaeda’s support for Boko Haram
Jide Ajani, Ben Agande in Paris, France, Tony Nwankwo and Abiodun Alade
The havoc visited on the nation by Boko Haram was laid bare by President Goodluck Jonathan who, yesterday, claimed that the Islamist group’s insurgency in Nigeria had claimed over 12,000 lives.
Jonathan spoke in Paris, the French capital, at a summit with his counterparts from Benin Republic, Chad, Cameroun and Niger, where an action plan designed to counter the terror activities of Boko Haram in West Africa was approved.
The action plan would involve coordination of surveillance efforts, sharing of intelligence and joint efforts to secure the porous borders in the region.
French President Francois Hollande hosted the summit in response to the terror activities of Boko Haram which peaked about a month ago with the abduction in Chibok, Borno State, of more than 200 school girls.
“We have seen what this organisation is capable of”, Hollande said at the summit.
Addressing the summit, Jonathan stated that the activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria also injured more than 8,000 persons.
His words: “This unconventional war has so far claimed over 12,000 lives with more than 8,000 persons injured or maimed, not to mention the displacement of thousands of innocent Nigerians.”
Jonathan, who has been criticised for what many see as a lack lustre response to the Chibok girls’ abduction, said he was totally committed to finding them and returning them to their distraught families.
“We are totally committed to finding the girls, wherever they are,” he said.
“We’ve been scanning these areas with surveillance aircraft,” he added, saying Nigeria had deployed 20,000 troops to find the girls.
“Boko Haram is no longer a local terror group,” he said. “From 2009 to today it has changed and can be described as Al-Qaeda in western and central Africa.”
French President Hollande, who appeared to be confirming Sunday Vanguard’s exclusive stories on the network of terror that had forged an alliance between Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda, told the Paris summit that Boko Haram had forged links with terrorist groups all over Africa.
This is a full confirmation of Sunday Vanguard’s recent stories that Boko Haram was collaborating with other terror groups across Africa to attack Nigeria.
“They have threatened civilians, they have attacked schools and they have kidnapped citizens of many countries. France in particular has been a victim of it.
“When more than 200 young girls are being held in barbaric conditions with the prospect of being sold into slavery, there are no questions to be asked, only actions to be taken,” Hollande added.
At the summit, Paul Biya of Cameroun said it was time the continent declared war on Boko Haram.
“We have affirmed our solidarity and determination to vigorously fight Boko Haram,” Cameroon President Biya said. “They have committed one more attack, attacked businessmen and this comes after the French hostages were kidnapped. As we speak we are searching for an Italian priest and a Canadian nun. The problem has become regional, if not a Western problem.”
“Religious intolerance has no place in Africa,” Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi said at the summit.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters just before the summit that the countries in the region had to forge a “strategy to defeat Boko Haram more broadly” as well as resolving the case of the missing girls.
“This is one sickening and terrible incident but they continue almost every day to commit terrorist acts and atrocities,” Hague said.
“There are many borders here and they are porous. This is very relevant to finding the schoolgirls. We want to see the countries in the region working together in creating an intelligence fusion cell,” Hague said.
Among the resources already put at Nigeria’s disposal have been US drones and surveillance aircraft. Experts from Britain, France and the US are advising Nigeria on its counter-terrorism strategy.
France has direct experience of dealing with Boko Haram having recently secured the release of a French family that was kidnapped by the group in Cameroon and then held in Nigeria for two months.
Paris also has troops deployed on peacekeeping duty in the Central African Republic and in Mali, where it sent a force last year to combat Al Qaeda-linked militants who had seized control of much of the north of the country.
Although the French believe that the intervention in Mali inflicted significant damage on groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), military planners remain concerned about the implications of potential alliances being forged between militants across the deeply unstable region.