Address by President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria at the Regional Summit on Security in Paris, on Saturday, May 17, 2014.
It gives me great pleasure to attend this Special Summit to deliberate on the current security situation in Nigeria.
Let me start by first expressing my deep thanks and appreciation to the President of the French Republic, His Excellency, Mr Francois Hollande, for convening this Summit.
This is the second time within a year that we have come to Paris to discuss what are essentially African security issues.
This present Summit further underscores President Hollande’s commitment to Africa’s stability, peace and development.
I also wish to thank my colleagues and brothers from Nigeria’s neighbouring countries, namely, His Excellency President Boni Yayi of Benin Republic, His Excellency President Idriss Deby Itno of Chad, His Excellency President Paul Biya of Cameroon and President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic for their solidarity and friendly disposition in attending this Summit at a very short notice.
Let me also thank the European Union, the U.S. Secretary of State, Sen. John Kerry, and the Rt. Hon. William Hague, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary of the UK, for honouring this invitation.
You have borne with my country, the huge burden of our counter-insurgency operations, sometimes with collateral damage.
I thank you for your support and cooperation.
Without doubt, your concern and empathy with the government and people of Nigeria is a clear demonstration of true solidarity and brotherhood in ensuring that the current security challenges facing our country are addressed in a definitive and conclusive manner.
But let me state clearly from the outset that what started as a local insurgency in North Eastern Nigeria has now evolved into the new frontier of the global war of terrorism against our civilisation, our way of life, and against the many prospects of stability in our region.
This is not anymore a challenge to Nigeria alone; it is a threat to each and every one of us in this room.
The Boko Haram Sect emerged in 2002 while its insurgency phase started as far back as 2009.
Officially known as the Jamaa’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’wati Wal Jihad, which in English means “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”, the group is more commonly identified with its motivating principle, and referred to as Boko Haram which literally means, Western or non-Islamic education is prohibited.
The group is hostile to democracy; it uses every means to indoctrinate its members; its ultimate objective is to destabilise the country and take over Nigeria in order to turn it into a base of operation in West Africa and the entire continent.
Since 2009, we have had to contend with many attacks and killings, which have now developed into a full-scale war targeting the stability and integrity of our nation.
Boko Haram has launched a vicious guerrilla-style campaign against the government and the people of Nigeria.
It has attacked schools, slaughtered students in their dormitories, destroyed villages, communities and government infrastructure and has wreaked havoc on the economic and social life of our people.
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.
We have developed intelligence, which indicates clearly that global terrorist networks are deeply involved in the recent activities of Boko Haram, which has now turned into an integral part of the Al Qaeda network as the West African Branch.
More tellingly, the group runs an international network of training and incubation centres in such places as Gao and Kidal areas of Mali, the Diffa, Maradi and Maina Soro areas of Niger Republic, Maroua and Garoua areas of Republic of Cameroon, the Zango and Ridina quarters in Ndjamena, Chad, the Ranky-Kotsy area of Sudan, and also some cells in the Central African Republic.
As a responsible government, we felt compelled to declare a State of Emergency in three of Nigeria’s north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
This became necessary to give the security forces the required scope and authority to enable them operate more efficiently in the affected areas in order to gain victory.
They were directed to adhere strictly to clearly spelt out rules of engagement and avoid any excesses that may amount to a violation of human rights.
Careful regard for human rights has always been central to our counter-terrorism strategies, resulting in the adoption of rules and procedures to protect the civilian population from excessive collateral damage.
Last year, I had ordered the release from detention of women and underage persons who had been involved with terrorists and also, persons against whom prima facie cases could not be established.
Proven incidents of human rights violation which may have involved our security forces are always promptly investigated and dealt with in accordance with our laws.
In addition to military operation, our administration has adopted what we have termed “a soft approach” to combating the insurgency.
This includes short, medium and long-term measures to mitigate the impact on the people and the entire country.
Our focus along this line has been mainly in form of the introduction of a robust educational programme in the northern states to reduce the number of out-of-school children and empower the youths.
We have launched economic recovery programmes to create jobs, while also providing infrastructure, which unfortunately, is heavily threatened by the terror attacks.
Other measures include the introduction of de-radicalisation programmes for convicted terrorists and suspects awaiting trial, and the promotion of opportunities for dialogue and collaboration with critical stakeholders from the region.
Nonetheless, Boko Haram has continued to attack innocent Nigerians without regard to religion, ethnicity and gender.
Christians have been killed; churches have been destroyed, Muslims have also been murdered and mosques destroyed.
The reprehensible abduction of innocent school girls in Chibok, Borno State, is another manifestation of this criminality.
We believe that it is the success of our administration’s Transformation Agenda, evident in the growth of our economy and increasing opportunities for our people that has prompted the terrorists to intensify the war against Nigeria because our success is their failure.
The activities of the terrorists have also been felt across Nigerian borders, particularly in Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Border and cross-border attacks have taken place with Boko Haram terrorists seeking refuge in our neighbouring countries.
So many Nigerians, fleeing from terror attacks, have also become refugees in our neighbouring countries creating additional burden (security and financial) in those countries.
It is the regional and global character of the terrorists’ campaign that makes it imperative that we explore and adopt a regional and global approach to addressing this insurgency and menace.
Indeed, in the spirit of collective regional security, it is important that we accept that an attack on one country is an attack on all of us, and our common humanity.
It is equally important that we accept the principle of hot pursuit of terrorists in the context of joint border patrols and cooperation in order to deny them sanctuaries and make it impossible for them to take refuge in each other’s territory.
I note with satisfaction that some mechanisms for joint border patrols, including customs and immigration administration, have commenced.
But we need to do more to restore security along our common borders, focusing especially on the actualisation of the mandate of the Multinational Task Force on the Lake Chad Basin.
In addition, we have intensified the exchange of intelligence and information on cross-border movements of goods and services of illicit origin, especially small arms and light weapons as well as human trafficking.
At the multi-lateral level, we are developing a regional strategy to win the war against terror within the region.
The importance we attach to combating terrorism informed our decision to invite African leaders during our centenary celebrations to deliberate on ‘Human Security, Peace and Development: Agenda for 21st Century Africa’.
We have signed bilateral agreements with our neighbouring countries on security and are engaged in Joint Operations with Benin Republic, Chad and Niger.
In this regard, we welcome the support and assistance of all our partners from the region, the continent and around the world in providing technical expertise, training programmes and support for border-area management programmes.
At the international level, we should take concrete steps to designate the Al Qaeda in West Africa, alias Boko Haram, as a Terrorist Organisation on the basis of the Proscription Order that my government has already imposed on the organisation.
We should also accelerate the implementation of other international sanctions, particularly under the auspices of the UN, on Boko Haram, Ansaru and their principal leaders.
We are already making thorough intelligence efforts to identify their sponsors and their sources of funding and arms supply.
I have no doubt that with the cooperation of Nigeria’s neighbours, it would be possible to rein in these organisations until this scourge is ultimately eliminated and defeated.
We will not succumb to terrorists and their dangerous tactics. Terrorists will not be allowed to define who we are or instill fear in our people and cause destruction and mayhem.
Time has, therefore, come for all peace-loving peoples of the world to unite against this new threat to global peace and stability.
The abduction of young innocent school girls in Chibok represents a watershed and a turning point in the global terrorist war against human civilisation.
The escalation by the terrorists should not go unanswered by us. The world is entering a new stage and we must stand firm to protect our civilisation.
I will like to seize this opportunity to express the gratitude of the government and the people of Nigeria to all countries who are actively participating, side by side, with our country, in seeking the rescue of these school girls.
I must commend the efforts of countries like France, the U.S., the UK and Israel, among other partners who have offered technical assistance to my government in our joint efforts to rescue these innocent children.
The major challenge that we have faced in our search and rescue operation so far has been the deluge of misinformation about the whereabouts of the girls and the circumstances of their disappearance.
We have deployed about 20,000 troops to the area, intensified aerial surveillance, and strengthened local intelligence resources.
We shall spare no effort, we shall explore every avenue, we shall turn every stone to ensure the return of the girls to their families and that the terrorists are defeated.
Once again, I wish to thank all participants for your attendance at this conference.
I am confident that the outcome of our deliberations will go a long way in assisting us to address both the immediate challenges and root causes of Boko Haram insurgency in order to restore enduring peace and stability, not just to Nigeria, but also to our sub-region.
This latest attack is a wake-up call for all of us. A line has been drawn in the sand; a test is put to each one of us. Nigeria will rise up to this challenge and will prevail.
I call upon each one of you to stand up and be counted with us in this fight.