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Abuja Hosts Regional Meeting On Security

The meeting is a follow up of the first held in Paris in May 2014 to explore ways to fight the Boko Haram threats.

The President of the French Republic and top-level European and American leaders will join the leaders of the Lake Chad Basin Commission countries and Benin to continue discussions on ways of stemming the Boko Haram insurgency which has taken devastating economic and social consequences, notably on Cameroon and Nigeria. Nigeria’s federal capital, Abuja was very much in a pre-summit mood yesterday 12 May 2016 with a noticeable rise in security, observed right from arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport where security checks have been heightened with police and military personnel posted at strategic positions along the 40-kilometer drive way into the city.

At the second-floor offices of the Transcorp Hilton where accreditations and other summit-related events were being harnessed, the same security concerns could be observed. In a neighbouring facility at the same floor, experts of the Lake Chad Basin Commission had begun a meeting at 10 AM and continued to late yesterday afternoon to prepare some technical files for consideration during the meeting. At the 2014 Paris Summit, summoned at the instance of French President, Francois Hollande, Heads of State of Benin, Cameroon, Chad, France, Niger and Nigeria and representatives of the USA, UK and the EU were wont on intensifying regional and international mobilization to fight the terrorism of Boko Haram and undertook to support the efforts of Cameroon and Nigeria in fighting the insurgency. The leaders at that summit, and more particularly, President Biya and the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made some very strong commitments about their determination to fight and quickly defeat Boko Haram.

In fact, it was at that summit that President Paul Biya formally declared war on the insurgents. Hear him on that occasion: “We are here today to reaffirm our determination to vigorously fight Boko Haram… We are declaring war on this sect and we shall win”. One could say the immediate outcome of the Paris Summit was the setting up of the Multinational Joint Task Force, an 8700-man strong force comprising soldiers from all the lake Chad Basin Commission countries under the command of a Nigerian officer with a Cameroonian as deputy force commander and a Chadian as chief of staff with headquarters in Ndjamena.

The operationalization of the force was carried out in earnest during the extraordinary summit of the Lake Chad Basin Commission held on June 20, 2015 at the Presidential Conference Lodge of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at Abuja. There, the Heads of State acknowledged with satisfaction, the success recorded on military operations jointly conducted in the field by the coalition of troops from Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad and which had “significantly broken down military capability of the Boko Haram terrorist group. However, they agreed on the need to keep on this drive marked by solidarity in action by taking decisive measures in order to totally curb Boko Haram insurgency”.

But one of the most important decisions of the summit was the approval of the “Concept of Operations” as well as the immediate deployment of the Multinational Joint Task Force by “implementing its human, logistic and financial requirements”. The summit also approved the funding of the sum of 30 Million USD for the installation and equipment of the MNJTF headquarters.
The Abuja summit opening tomorrow May 14, 2016 will have to review all of these measures and also see to the conclusion of ongoing military operations against Boko Haram. Sources close to the summit also indicate that the Heads of State and leaders will also examine the speedy resolution of the humanitarian crisis caused by the barbaric acts of the dreaded sect. Since the 2014 meeting in Paris, President Paul Biya has never missed any opportunity at home or at international meetings to reiterate the dangers caused by Boko Haram and the international dimension of the threat which henceforth should be addressed globally even if Nigeria and Cameroon bear the brunt almost exclusively.

Since Paris, he has spoken about it first at his end-of-year message to the nation on December 31, 2014, then in his message to the diplomatic corps on January 8, 2015 and later when he addressed the nation’s youth on February 10, 2015. At the special conference of Heads of State of the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa, COPAX, held in Yaounde on February 16, 2015, the fight against Boko haram was a central issue and so has the issue been discussed at meetings with the Secretary General of the Francophonie, the French President and President Buhari in Yaounde in July 2015 and recently in Abuja.

As night fell on Abuja yesterday, State Protocol officials hinted that President Paul Biya will take the floor at the Abuja meeting shortly after the opening ceremony at about 2 PM here in Abuja. Activities of the late afternoon include the adoption of the report of the meeting of experts, proposals for the venue of the next conference on security in 2018, the reading of the final communiqué and a joint press conference before the meeting formally ends late in the evening.

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