By Lawrence Olaoye
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday expressed the optimism that strict implementation of the agreement reached at the meeting he had with his counterparts from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin Republic in Nimey, the capital of Niger Republic, would effectively checkmate the activities of the terrorists in the subregion.
This is coming as the Presidency declared that it is currently in effective control of the nation’s airspace through the deployment of a new tracking equipment by the Ministry of Aviation.
Jonathan, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media Nad Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, expressed the confidence that with the intensification of joint patrols, military operations and intelligence sharing by Nigeria and neighbouring countries, as agreed by their leaders in Niamey last week, the activities of insurgents and other cross-border criminals will soon be drastically curtailed.
At a meeting with Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs of Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republic who were in Abuja to work with their Nigerian counterparts on a legal framework for the cross-border military operations approved by him and neighbouring heads of state in Niamey, President Jonathan reiterated his belief that such collaboration was essential for success in the war against terrorism.
“I am quite pleased with the decisions we took in Niamey to enhance and boost joint actions against Boko Haram and other cross-border criminals because we have to work together to defeat Boko Haram and other extremist groups in our sub-region.
“I believe that if we cooperate more and monitor our borders closely, the movement of criminals and terrorists as well as small arms and ammunition across our shared borders will also be drastically reduced,” he said.
The visiting Ministers were accompanied to the Presidential Villa by Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali and the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
According to him, the leaders at the meeting announced plans to step up the fight against Boko Haram. A communiqué issued after the meeting said that a command centre for a multinational force headed by a chief of staff will be in place by November 20.
The leaders also agreed to finalise the deployment of troops promised by member states to form the multinational force within their national borders by November 1.
The visiting ministers at the audience with President Jonathan were Niger’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mohammed Bazoun, Cameroon’s Minister of External Relations, Mr. Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Chad’s Minister of Defence, Mr. Benaindo Tatola, Chad’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Muossa Faki Mahamat, Niger’s Minister of Defence, Mr. K. Mahamadou, Benin’s Minister of Defence, Mr. Robert Yarou, Benin’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Nassirou Bako Arifari and Cameroon’s Minister of Defence, Mr. Edgar Alain Debe Ngo’o.
In a related development, Captain Shehu Iyaal, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Aviation, also gave the assurance that the Aviation ministry now has a state of the art tracking equipment capable of monitoring and tracking all aircrafts, both local and foreign, operating in the nation’s airspace.
Iyaal said the Jonathan’s administration has done a lot in the transformation of the nation’s airports across the country just as it continues to build new terminals and runways.