By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has claimed that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had provided an avenue for terrorist group, Boko Haram, to push back into Nigeria.
President Buhari, who is currently attending the African Finance Summit in the French capital, Paris, stated this in his opinion article, which was published in a Paris-based Magazine, Le Point.
According to him, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had aided the escalation of conflicts in different parts of the world.
As governments struggle to contain the effect of COVID-19, he said jihadists have taken advantage in the Sahel. Terrorist incidents, the president noted, have become common across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
“Around the Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram terrorism have taken advantage of the pandemic and pushed back into my country Nigeria, whilst still launching raids and attacks in Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
“We have seen more than once how Boko Haram – which in French means “l’éducation occidentale est un péché” – can regroup, morphing in form and tactics.
“A matter of only a few years ago, they were reduced to a territory-less group, where once they had controlled an area in Nigeria three times the size of Lebanon.
“It has demonstrated why pushing against one front can prove futile if groups can simply migrate to ponds of insecurity across porous borders.
“Yet as instability has spread, so the networks that sustain it have strengthened – whether that be weapons supply chains from Libya, ideological imports of Al-Qaeda and ISIS from the Middle East, or trafficking networks that take money from those escaping instability and feeds it back into the system that generates it,” he said.
He said as coronavirus spreads in Europe and innocents were being murdered in the streets of France, “our fate is linked. Hence Paris has been active in this common fight”.
Buhari added: “The French Operation Barkhane has provided critical boots on the ground in shoring up security across our region.
“Though challenges remain, it has ensured a wide expanse of territory has not descended into lawless playground, where terrorists masquerading as fighting for Islam groups can freely flourish and multiply. That assistance has been profoundly appreciated in the region.”
President Buhari stressed the need for stronger cooperation between Nigeria and France in the fight against terror.
He added: “Now, Nigeria and France should deepen our anti-terror cooperation if we are to overcome this scourge – particularly in the aftermath of the murder of the late President of Chad.
“Where for historical ties, support came to Nigeria from the UK, and to the G5 from France, the terrorists do not recognise these border-aligned distinctions. We must be agile and flexible, cooperating cross our borders to cut the head off their groups.
“Indeed, we have already done much to strengthen our bond. Intelligence sharing is well-developed, along with training against improvised explosives.
“But there is more we can do in cross-border military exercises and coordinating strategy. At the same time, we know France has borne much of the strain for combating terrorism in the region, and we – the leaders of Sahel countries – must also do more to present a unified front to lobby other Western nations, particularly Great Britain and the United States and the European Union, for further military and humanitarian assistance.”
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