An adviser to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan says the declaration of war on Boko Haram by African leaders and the international community is a game changer that could help end the violence perpetrated by the Islamist militants.
Reuben Abati says intelligence reports show that Boko Haram has now become the al-Qaida of West Africa with links to other international terrorist groups and has the aim to destabilize not only Nigeria and its neighboring countries, but also the entire West, Central African and Sahel regions.
His comments followed a recent summit organized by France President Francois Hollande, which was attended by leaders from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger about violence carried out by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria and neighboring countries.
Abati says the decision by the international community to volunteer support for Nigeria’s efforts to combat the Islamic extremists is an important message.
“Intelligence has revealed [Boko Haram] is linked not just to al-Qaida but also to AQIM [the al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb], to al Shabab and other terrorist groups in the world. The objective is to destabilize Nigeria, destabilize West Africa and target other countries,” said Abati. “Activities of that group have shown very clearly that this is a group that constitutes a threat to our civilization, to our democracy [and] to our common humanity.”
The summit in Paris marks a turning point in Nigeria’s fight to end the Boko Haram insurgency and attacks on unarmed civilians, according to Abati.
He says the fight against Boko Haram needs support as part of a bid to end global terrorism.
But, critics say the Paris summit was yet another talk shop, which they said is unlikely to make any significant impact on the violence perpetrated by the militants.
Abati disagreed. He says Nigeria’s neighboring countries including Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad pledged at the summit to work to ensure terrorism does not overwhelm their countries.
“The Paris summit was restricted to the issue of the neighboring countries working together with [the] international community,” said Abati. “The countries agreed to cooperate together, to coordinate patrols, to establish a system to pull intelligence together, to establish mechanism for information exchange, to work together on border surveillance, and then work with the rest of the world… to ensure there is a global meeting of minds.”
Some analysts have accused the government of not doing enough to search for the school girls abducted by Boko Haram last month in spite of the administration’s repeated promises. They contend that security agents are poorly equipped to have any success against the well-equipped militants.
On a government Twitter feed, Abati posted pictures of the military with a caption, security agents searching for the girls.
“The security forces of Nigeria are committed, they are patriotic [and] they stand ready to engage the terrorists,” said Abati. “We face and asymmetrical kind of war…with the support we are receiving from the international community in terms of technical expertise, in terms of intelligence gathering can only make these security forces better and more prepared. We see all of these as a good development,” he said.