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French President, Francois Hollande, yesterday warned President Muhammadu Buhari not to relent in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency because the terror group remains a threat despite the “impressive” military gains against it.
President Hollande stated this at the Presidential Villa when he was hosted by President Buhari on the sidelines of the second regional security summit which held in Abuja yesterday.
Regional and Western leaders gathered in the nation’s capital to marshal out closer military corporation and assistance in tackling the threat of terrorism and the consequent humanitarian crises.
Speaking at a joint press conference after a closed-door bilateral discussion, President Hollande who spoke through an interpreter said “the results of the counter-insurgency are impressive” and the insurgents had been “diminished and forced to retreat”.
Although Boko Haram has been weakened and has shifted ground from areas they were earlier occupying, “this terrorist group nevertheless remains a threat”, Holland stressed.
“I also held a meeting two years ago in Paris where we discussed together with the neighbours of Nigeria the common threat, which is Boko Haram, and how to deal with it.
“And when I hosted President Buhari in Paris in September 2015, we underlined the importance of implementing this Paris plan. And this afternoon, the second of this summit will be held here in Abuja to take stock of the progresses achieved in these two years and work on what remains to be done,” he said.
He said France had also provided training and equipment as part of the international support to the fight against insurgency in Nigeria which includes British military trainers and US surveillance drones.
Hollande noted further that “this terror group, Boko Haram, which massacres, terrorize people and abducted the Chibok girls in particular, they have been weakened, forced to move back, forced to loose ground, they have been chased about and they had to give up the territories they were controlling.”
The French President commended Buhari on the level of success in the fight against the insurgents, as well the coordination of the countries in the region.
“It is also time for the French taking responsibility because France had been supporting this action through intelligence gathering, information sharing, training by providing equipment to support the missions of the Multinational Joint Task Force and it’s been this coalition, solidary, strategy which has enabled the success we are witnessing”, he stated.
During the closed doors bilateral talks, Presidents Hollande and Buhari signed a “Letter of Intent” that will pave the way for a defence agreement.
The two leaders also signed several accords strengthening existing cultural cooperation.
According to Hollande, “we also discussed other matters and signed agreement in technical, scientific, and cultural cooperation agreement as well as agreements on development.
“As you may know, the French Development Agency invested a lot in Nigeria which is the first beneficiary of its loans.
“There are also a lot of agreements and decisions taken by our many businesses like Total who are strengthening their businesses in Nigeria,” Hollande said.
In his remarks, President Buhari assured the French leader that Nigeria would continue to work closely with his government.
He said, “Boko Haram has preoccupied this discussion both in and out of the bilateral discussions. We do appreciate the efforts, the successes recorded by this administration.
“I was told that a hundred articulated tankers leave Kano alone on a daily basis, seven days a week to Maiduguri, from there traders from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, so you have at least two million Nigerians from wheel barrow pushers to traders that benefit from Maiduguri market before Boko Haram struck.
“We were not aware of their international coloration until they claimed that they are loyal to ISIS. So, I assure you we are doing our best,” he said.
“The international terrorism now with the help of technology and million of volunteers respect no borders. It is a lot of concern for people of conscience to learn that in Nigeria we have more than two million IDPs most of them women and children. We are doing our best to organise series of committees,” Buhari added.
He said in tackling the insurgency, his government will also move against all forms of trafficking including drug trafficking.
Also speaking at the 2nd Regional Security Summit in Abuja, alongside the President of France, Francois Hollande, and other seven regional leaders including the Heads of States of Chad, Cameroun, Niger, Benin, Senegal and Gabon, Buhari said the Boko Haram has been significantly degraded and currently squeezed in a small enclave in Sambisa Forest.
He declared that he is on the verge of fulfilling the pledge he made when he assumed office to devote all his energy to eradicating the scourge of terrorism, that ravaged the North Eastern part of the country.
According to him, Boko Haram has been militarily been defeated and confined that they have now resorted to hit and run tactics.
“When I started, our first task was to improve our security infrastructure and strengthen our regional and international alliances. We have degraded Boko Haram and squeezed them into a small enclave in Sambisa Forest.