By Adekunle Aliyu, Ben Agande, Favour Nnabugwu
Yaoundé — Cameroon’s President Mr Paul Biya vowed, yesterday, that his government would go after the Islamist group Boko Haram “until it is totally wiped out”.
His Nigerian counterpart, President Goodluck Jonathan, on his part, was confident that the activities of insurgents and other cross-border criminals will soon be drastically curtailed with the intensification of joint patrols, military operations and intelligence sharing by Nigeria and neighbouring countries as agreed by their leaders in Niamey last week.
Mr. Paul Biya, who spoke after the release of the abducted 27 hostages comprising 17 Cameroonians and 10 Chinese said: “The Cameroonian government assures you that it will ceaselessly continue to fight Boko Haram until it’s totally wiped out”.
The 27 Cameroonians and Chinese were delivered to authorities on Friday night. The government has not said how they were freed, but a security source told AFP that “a ransom” was paid and around 20 imprisoned Islamists were freed in exchange.
The Chinese were seized in May from a construction camp in Waza, near the border with Nigeria in an attack that left one Cameroonian soldier dead. The Cameroonians — including the wife of one of Cameroon’s deputy prime ministers — were abducted in July during two simultaneous assaults, also blamed on Boko Haram, in which at least 15 people died.
One of the released Cameroonians, Seiny Boukar Lamine, told state radio, “we were in these sort of huts in a pretty dense forest, it was in a savannah with big trees and a lot of brush. We slept on the ground”. He said he was held with his wife and six children.
Another former hostage Abdouraman Seini, who survived a gunshot to his hand, told VOA he and the other captives were forced to eat whatever was provided and at times went for days without water to drink.
He said they lived in miserable conditions and that they were tortured by men armed with knives and guns. “Freedom is a good thing, I pray such a thing never happens to anyone”, he said.
Abdouraman Seini added that he did not see any of the more than 200 girls from Chibok, Nigeria that Boko Haram claimed responsibility for kidnapping in April.
According to him “women are separated from men in the various detention camps run by the militants in the bush”.
Seini also told VOA he believes it is very likely Boko Haram fighters will continue their attacks because they are running out of food for the hundreds of fighters and the hundreds of captives they have.
We’ll curtail their activities— Jonathan
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Special Adviser to the President Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati quoted the president as telling the ministers of defence and foreign affairs of Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republic that such international collaboration was essential for success in the war against terrorism.
The Ministers were in Abuja to work with their Nigerian counterparts on a legal framework for the cross-border military operations which President Jonathan and neighbouring heads of state approved in Niamey. President Jonathan reiterated his belief that such collaboration was essential for success in the war against terrorism.
According to the statement, the president was pleased “with the decisions taken in Niamey to enhance and boost joint actions against Boko Haram and other cross-border criminals because we have to work together to defeat Boko Haram and other extremist groups in our sub-region.
“I believe that if we cooperate more and monitor our borders closely, the movement of criminals and terrorists as well as small arms and ammunition across our shared borders will also be drastically reduced,”
The visiting ministers were accompanied to the Presidential Villa by Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali and the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
The President said that with their collective experience and professionalism, he expected the visiting ministers and their Nigerian counterparts to come up with an effective action plan for the successful implementation of the decisions reached by the leaders of Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republic at their meeting in Niamey on October 7, 2014.
It would be recalled that at the meeting in Niamey, Niger, the leaders announced plans to step up the fight against Boko Haram. A communiqué issued after the meeting said that a command centre for a multinational force headed by a chief of staff will be in place by November 20.
The leaders also agreed to finalise the deployment of troops promised by member states to form the multinational force within their national borders by November 1.
The visiting ministers at the audience with President Jonathan were Niger’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mohammed Bazoun; Cameroon’s Minister of External Relations, Mr. Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo; Chad’s Minister of Defence, Mr. Benaindo Tatola; Chad’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Muossa Faki Mahamat; Niger’s Minister of Defence, Mr. K. Mahamadou; Benin’s Minister of Defence, Mr. Robert Yarou; Benin’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Nassirou Bako Arifari and Cameroon’s Minister of Defence, Mr. Edgar Alain Debe Ngo’o.
Multi National Joint Task Force readies for Boko Haram
In a related development, the Multi National Joint Task Force, MNJTF, comprising soldiers from countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission have decided to establish the MNJTF headquarters in Borno State next month.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb Aminu Bashir Wali disclosed this, pointing out that troops of the task force will be deployed into action next month to checkmate the tendencies of Boko Haram terrorists crossing into border communities to wreak havoc.
According to Wali, after the meeting of LCBC member states in Benin Republic, it was agreed that the MNJTF headquarters be established in Baga town in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State, on November 20, 2014.
He said the choice of Baga was in tandem with the decisions reached by Heads of State and Government of member states of Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC for which the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence met in Abuja yesterday.
He said the resolution would be forwarded to United Nations Security Council, and African Union to put the legal frame work in place against insurgency.
The Minister noted further that the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in Baga, which served as the epicentre of their strategic activities in terms of arms procurement, planning for attacks and reception centre for foreign insurgents or mercenaries due to its proximity to porous borders, justified the expansion of the Task Force’s mandate in April, 2012 to include the fight against terrorism.
His words: “Our meeting today underscores our common commitment to good neighbourliness and fine-tuning our collective resolve and strategies for confront terrorism.
“It is an established fact, which we have often stated that terrorism is an international phenomenon that has to be addressed through collaborative efforts at sub-regional and global levels.
“As a sub regional body, we are at a crossroad. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, which we must win or else, it will define us”.
At regional level, we have succeeded in enhancing cooperation in border patrol with neighbouring countries. We have also succeeded in deploying troops along our common borders.
“A new Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit, RIFU, has since become operational. Various forms of assistance have been received at bilateral and multilateral levels from our development partners and friends in terms of training.
“Most of these initiatives were sound but regrettably, resulting in certain inconveniences which have raised questions about the balance that we must strike between our commitment to democratic values, our interests in security and other national priorities”.
In an Interview with Vanguard, the Executive Secretary, Lake Chad Basin Commission, Engr. Sanusi Imran Abdullahi said members states were more than determined to fight terrorism as a collective menace in the region.
“We had the meeting of ministers of defence and chiefs of defence staff and chiefs of security of the member countries and Benin in Niamey July and we discussed the current security situation and the deployment of troops by member countries as agreed by the heads of state.
“Each country is to give an equipped troop, battalion to the Multinational Joint Task Force.
“As at that time, Niger and Chad had already deployed their battalions at locations within their countries. Of course, Nigerian troops are already there in Baga more than even a Battalion.
“But Cameroon was preparing to deploy their contingent. So we are hopeful by the end of this meeting today and before the end of the month as agreed at the extra ordinary summit, Cameroon should have deployed their own contingent of a battalion within their border in the Lake Chad Basin until the legal arrangements are finalised for the operation of the force together to work across borders”.
Abdullahi disclosed that the president of Benin Republic, Dr Boni Yayi, had promised to deploy a battalion which he described as a plus to us to member states.
“The Multinational Joint Task Force is to give us a tool for the fight against all forms of terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin and in the member countries or at least in the member countries that have signed this declaration at the extra ordinary summit”.
Dasuki unveils new approach to couter terrorism
Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki, yesterday in New York unveilled Nigeria’s new approach to countering and dismantling violent extremism in Nigeria. The Countering Violent Extremism programme, according to Dasuki is aimed at identifying the underlying causes of terrorism and to develop strategies to solve the problems.