Regional force

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jul 31st, 2014
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•The plan to establish a four-nation defence mission to combat growing Boko Haram threat is laudable

The decision by defence ministers of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroun and Chad to contribute 700 troops each to a multinational force to be exclusively devoted to fighting the scourge of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria and neighbouring countries is a step in the right direction. The insurgents have become more daring in recent times, expanding the scope of their operations not only in Nigeria, but also in the cooperating countries.

Many military tacticians had recommended such a cooperation to stamp out the evil in the sub-region, as some cells of the group are said to be located in the neighbouring countries. Some of the Chibok girls snatched in April are even believed to have been taken to some of the countries. It is therefore a relief that the countries have realised the need to share intelligence, bring their defence chiefs together periodically to review operations and progress being made, as well as match the terrorists in anticipating strikes.

Given the outrageous abduction of Cameroun’s Vice Prime Minister’s wife and the blow-up of the Ngala Bridge that links North eastern Nigeria and Cameroun last week, it behoves the countries to quickly work out the modalities for the multinational force and swing into action to exterminate what the Niger defence minister, Karidio Mahamadou, described as “this evil curse.”

Boko Haram’s persistent attacks have not only located Nigeria at the centre of the global terror map, it has also continued to threaten the country’s economy, made life miserable for people in the North eastern Nigeria and distorted national defence plans.

It is equally gratifying that world powers like France and Britain have pledged their support to the action. The defence summit on Nigeria’s security held in Paris in May had recommended such a line of action and it had been further endorsed by a follow up deliberation in London in June. It is believed that, the cooperation of these military giants that have huge political and defence influence in the West Africa sub-region, would assist in establishing such a compact and focused force.

Terrorism is such a new phenomenon in the region and it would require the backing of leaders of the Western countries to combat the scourge and redirect energy to development. We hope, however, that, in all this, security is not being defined in narrow terms as the deployment of military hardware and soldiers to engage in shooting campaigns. The people of the border areas should be brought into the picture. Their confidence is needed for a successful war on the murderous gang. Abubakar Shekau’s men are no spirits. They live among the people, have families, buy food from markets and move their equipment in ways that could not have been lost on the people of the areas. It is therefore imperative that they are mobilised to join the war against terrorism.

Although the Lake Chad Basin Authority, like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is primarily for economic cooperation in the areas covered, it should be noted that the two organisations could also be useful in building up support for the move to isolate the insurgents and terminate this disruptive tendency, realising that instability in Nigeria portends great danger for the entire sub-region.

However, it is the Nigerian political authority that bears the ultimate responsibility of initiating strategies to stamp out Boko Haram. And the time to effectively tackle the menace is now.


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