The European Union and Nigeria have resolved to adopt an integrated approach to tackle terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin region.
They also committed themselves to increase military pressure on terrorists in the region and increased collaboration to halt violence in the North-west and the Middle-Belt.
The collaboration between the EU and Nigeria to rout terrorism came barely a week after a global alliance, championed by the United States, committed itself to assist Nigeria and other West African countries to combat insurgency.
The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS resolved to apply lessons learnt from the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria to defeat Boko Haram and other terror groups in West Africa.
The US Department of State, in a statement last week said the resolution was taken at a virtual meeting with members of the coalition and representatives of West African states and relevant regional organisations convened by the United States and Nigeria.
The meeting by the coalition was convened to discuss the threat of ISIS in West Africa and ways the coalition can contribute to collective efforts to ensure ISIS’s enduring defeat in the region.
In a communiqué issued yesterday after the seventh Nigeria-EU ministerial dialogue held virtually on Wednesday, the EU also expressed its willingness to step up assistance to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to defeat terrorism in the Lake Chad basin and West Africa.
The dialogue was co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Josep Borrell.
The duo signed the 10-page communiqué in which they condemned the horrific abuses committed by non-state armed groups and acknowledged the efforts to reduce the threat.
Also, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has said that the armed forces are intensifying operations to track down and arrest bandits’ collaborators.
The EU-Nigeria meeting reaffirmed the importance of preventing a general destabilisation of the region, while stressing the need to strengthen the resilience of communities, especially the most vulnerable, as well as refugees and internally displaced people.
The communiqué read in part: “Both sides acknowledge that in order to respond to the complex challenges in the Lake Chad Basin region, a truly integrated approach is needed, linking political, security, environmental and development efforts and ensuring provision of humanitarian assistance in a principled manner.
“Both sides expressed their support for the implementation of the AU’s Lake Chad Regional Stabilisation Strategy in close coordination with all key actors, including the AU and the United Nations.
“The EU expressed willingness to continue working closely together through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) as part of an integrated response to the crisis, and in line with relevant Security Council resolutions. The EU called for better cooperation between MNJTF member states and increased operational activity.”
The European body acknowledged the significance of Nigerian leadership within the MNJTF and urged the federal government to take initiative to enhance the MNJTF’s efficiency.
EU and Nigeria recognised the need for higher military pressure on armed terrorist groups, in compliance with humanitarian law, for the return of peace in the Lake Chad region.
It added: “Both sides intend to work together to prevent further violence in the North-west and the Middle-Belt, particularly through the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan.
“Both sides recognised that maritime security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea require concerted efforts of all stakeholders, and noted that Nigeria demonstrated strong resolve to tackling the threats in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.”
The EU and Nigeria expressed resolve to intensify collaboration and coordination, even with neighbouring countries, and to continue the implementation of the Yaoundé Architecture to fight transnational organised crime in the maritime domain.
They stressed the significance of consolidating democracy and the importance of implementing electoral reforms ahead of the next general election, and recognised the concerted efforts put in place by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for achieving the electoral reform process, including the recommendations provided by the EU Observation Mission in 2019.
The EU and Nigeria stressed the importance of stepping up efforts in tackling the persistent challenges in curbing transnational organised crime, including cybercrime, trafficking in persons, drugs and arms as well as money laundering and other financial crimes.
They said they would continue their cooperation in these areas, including through capacity building and enhanced cross-border collaboration, including with the UN.
Following the recent #EndSARS protests, EU and Nigeria reiterated the importance of respecting human rights, including the right to peaceful demonstrations and freedom of expression within the context of law and constitution.
The EU expressed condolences to the casualties and stressed the need to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice.
Both sides acknowledged the importance of delivering on genuine reforms, including of the police, through a process characterised by engagement of all stakeholders, local ownership, transparency and accountability.
Both EU and Nigeria acknowledged the concrete efforts and response of the federal government in addressing the #EndSARS movement demands, including the setting up of independent bodies to investigate complaints of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings, with a view to delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other police units.
This, they said, also included civilian brutality to policemen and damages done to private and public properties and investments.
They expressed commitment to continue supporting efforts to address Nigeria’s peace and security challenges, and to respond to the humanitarian needs, in particular in the North-east, North-west, Middle Belt, Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea.
They noted that a humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach should be at the heart of this cooperation.
They also reiterated the importance of security and defence forces to respect human rights and to work closely with local authorities and humanitarian actors to protect civilian populations and facilitate access to humanitarian assistance.
They reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of their review conferences and remain committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in this context.
On the economy, they reaffirmed their support for the modernisation of the World Trade Organisation in order to preserve and strengthen the multilateral rule-based order.
They also welcomed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, being the candidate recommended for the appointment as next director-general of the WTO, while the body also hopes the appointment would follow in due course.
The EU welcomed the signature by Nigeria of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
They also noted the importance of continental and regional economic integration and the EU reiterated its support for this transformative process for the African continent.
The EU said its trade arrangements in Africa would pursue similar objectives at the regional level and contribute towards the continental project.
The meeting, on the side of EU was attended by the EU’s Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Ms. Mariya Gabriel; Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ms. Ylva Johansson; Commissioner for Crisis Management, Mr. Janez Lenar; Commissioner for International Partnership, Ms. Jutta Urpilainen, and the Commissioner for Energy, Ms. Kadri Simon.
On the Nigerian side were Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd); Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms. Sadiya Farouq; Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo; Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Mohammed Nanono; Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Environment, Mr. Muhammad Mahmood; and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.
Kingsley Nwezeh, Adedayo Akinwale