LAGOS (AA) – A host of African foreign ministers and representatives of international bodies issued on Wednesday a joint call for broader cooperation to track and cut off funding and weapons supply to Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants, a step they say is key to address the menace of the group.
“The meeting called for greater cooperation of the international community to assist in tracking these sources of funding and supply of weapons to Boko Haram with a view to putting an end to these practices and all forms of illegal transfer of arms and ammunition,” Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Aminu Wali read out a communiqué issued at the end of a one-day security meeting in Abuja.
The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Nigeria’s neighbors – Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger – as well as officials from the United Nations, African Union, the European Union (EU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Officials from United States, France, Britain and Canada also attended.
The Abuja meeting was a follow up to recent security summits in France, Britain and Washington where strategies to tackle extremist groups, especially Boko Haram, had been discussed.
During the meeting, the attendees assessed the progress made on previous accords and observed the need to starve the militants of their sources of fund, logistics, arms and ammunition, according to Wali.
“[The meeting] called for demonstrable and strict enforcement of relevant U.N. and other international sanctions against terrorists groups, especially Boko Haram,” according to the communiqué.
“The participants noted with regret that in spite of efforts of Nigeria and international partners, the Chibok’s schoolgirls were still in Boko Haram’s captivity.
“They reiterated the need to mobilize support to end their captivity. They also called for support to end sexual violence and called on all countries to criminalize it.”
The attendees also hailed the efforts by Nigeria’s neighboring countries to host refugees fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency and urged strategic partners to provide assistance to these countries in their efforts at hosting the refugees, the minister said.
Wali added that the participants also exchanged views on the commitments undertaken with regard to intelligence-sharing in the battle against insurgency between Nigeria, regional forces and international partners.
“The meeting was briefed on the operationalization of the Regional Fusion Unit (RIFU) and welcomed the progress of producing timely and action-oriented intelligence in the fight against Boko Haram and other related trans-border threats,” the top diplomat said.
In his address to welcome the delegates to the meeting, the Nigerian minister had called Boko Haram’s claim to Islamic caliphate in northeastern Gwoza town as “ludicrous and untenable.”
“As we seek to break any operational link between Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and other terrorist networks in the Sahel, we must not allow Boko Haram to establish fresh links with the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” he added.
“The claim by Boko Haram to a phantom ‘Islamic Caliphate’ in a few areas of the northeastern part of our country is ludicrous and untenable.”
Wali also asserted the need to unravel the real actors behind the Boko Haram, a menace he argued appears to aim to redefine African borders.
“Who are the sponsors of Boko Haram terrorist campaigns? Who are those funding the insurgency? Where are the sources of the sophisticated arms and ammunition being used by the terrorists and who are those seeking to re-define the territory of Nigeria and Africa in the 21st century?” he wondered.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden” in Nigeria’s local Hausa language, first emerged in the early 2000s preaching against government misrule and corruption.
The group later became violent, however, after the death of its leader in 2009 while in police custody.
In the five years since, the shadowy sect has been blamed for numerous attacks – on places of worship and government institutions – and thousands of deaths in Nigeria.
The group has also been blamed for several previous cross-border attacks in Cameroon.
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