The United States (U.S.) is set to join forces with the Muhammadu Buhari administration in the battle against Boko Haram.
The Obama administration will send a team to Nigeria in the next few weeks to discuss with the government ways to renew cooperation in the fight against the sect, a senior U.S. diplomat said yesterday.
In N’Djamena, the capital of Chad yesterday, President Buhari and his host President Idris Derby pledged to pursue the sect members “everywhere”.
They spoke after a bilateral meeting on the activities of the sect, which has been operating across the borders.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was at Buhari’s inauguration last week. This underscores U.S. interest in working with his government.
Tensions emerged between the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan and the Obama administration last year over corruption and human rights abuses by the military in its campaign to crush Boko Haram.
In his inauguration speech, Buhari vowed to defeat Boko Haram and called the group, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in March, “mindless” and “godless”.
”With the new government, we are optimistic we can reset the relationship,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a congressional hearing. “We want to work with him and have expressed that to him.”
She said Buhari had committed both publicly and privately to “do everything possible to address the situation in terms of resources and staff” to tackle Boko Haram, which launched its insurgency in 2009.
U.S. officials have said the United States could send more advisers to Nigeria to train its military and help boost the economy, the largest in Africa, through more investment in its oil and gas sector.
Thomas-Greenfield said the United States was encouraged that Buhari’s first trips were to neighbors Niger and Chad, which are part of a multi-national force being set up to fight Boko Haram’s insurgency in the Lake Chad region.
Nigeria’s Major-General Tukur Buratai has been appointed to head the new force, which will be funded partly by the international community.
”He is someone we have worked with and someone we feel will be a positive force on the multinational task force,” she said, adding that Buhari was still studying options to fund a stepped- up effort to tackle Boko Haram.
A communiqué issued at the end of President Buhari’s one-day visit to Chad said both leaders agreed on the need to quickly make the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) fully operational to effectively combat terrorism in Northeast Nigeria and “everywhere” that Boko Haram operates.
The two Presidents called on the international community to support the Lake Chad Basin Commission and neigbouring countries to combat terrorism and insurgency.
“Both Heads of State agreed that the war on Boko Haram should be supported by emergency development initiatives in areas affected by this insurgency group.
“This will help to overcome the harmful effects faced by local populations,” the communiqué said.
President Buhari paid tribute to the gallantry of Chadian soldiers who have engaged in operations against Boko Haram and condoled the families of their comrades who were killed in action.
While in the Chadian capital, President Buhari also met with Gen. Buratai, who has just been appointed Force Commander of the MNJTF whose headquarters will be in N’Djamena.
Yesterday’s visit was the second of the two-leg trip by Buhari to neigbouring countries to galvanise them for the final onslaught against Boko Haram. Buhari was in Niger Republic on Wednesday.
Buhari noted that the security of Nigeria and her neighbours were intrinsically linked, adding that it is very essential that they cooperate on security issues in a robust and sustained manner.
The President said when it becomes fully deployed and functional, the MNJTF, which comprises Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, will secure and stabilise all the areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He reaffirmed his conviction that with greater cooperation among Nigeria and neighbouring countries, the Boko Haram insurgency will be brought to an end very soon.
Buhari thanked Chad for her invaluable support in the fight against insurgency and terrorism.
He said: “Your troops have stood shoulder to shoulder and fought gallantly with ours in the fight against the forces of evil.
“This is a remarkable show of good neighbourliness, which we must reinforce in the years ahead.”
The President said the harrowing images of displaced citizens of both countries, in search of safety and succour must spur their governments and others in the sub-region to do more “to restore their dignity and give them the relief they need”.
On the bilateral relations between Nigeria and Chad, Buhari noted that both countries were bound by “nature’’, adding that they must therefore work together to find lasting solutions to border management, migration and movement of goods and services.
The President also thanked President Deby for attending his inauguration ceremony on May 29 in Abuja, adding that he would return to Nigeria with the assurance that Nigeria and Chad are poised to intensify their cooperation.
President Deby praised Buhari for his “wise decision’’ to relocate the Nigerian Military Command centre from Abuja to Maiduguri.
The Chadian President said that the decision, which was announced in President Buhari’s inaugural address, was a right step towards restoring peace and security to states affected by terrorism, and the sub-region.
He assured President Buhari that Chad will continue to work with Nigeria to achieve lasting peace and security in the sub-region, given their historic, cultural and economic ties.