Military top brass from Nigeria and surrounding countries met Tuesday to thrash out plans to take on Boko Haram, as President Muhammadu Buhari takes early steps aiming to defeat the militants. Chiefs of defence staff from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and a high-level military official from Benin held talks in Abuja to determine strategies for a new, African Union-backed regional force against the rebels.
The meeting “points to our common resolve to work together to put an end to a menace that has become a regional and indeed a global problem”, Nigeria’s chief of defence staff Alex Badeh said at the start of talks. “If there is any time for us to rise in one voice irrespective of our differences, it is now,” he added.
The long-awaited Multi-National Joint Task Force, which was due to have been operational in November, has its headquarters in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, under a senior Nigerian officer. In the meantime, troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have been fighting Boko Haram insurgents in northeast Nigeria for several months and have claimed a series of successes.
The Nigerian military announced on Monday evening that the chiefs of defence staff meeting was being held in preparation for talks on Thursday between heads of state and government of all five countries. Buhari, a former army general, has been Nigeria’s president since May 29 and has made ending Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency the top priority for his administration.
He immediately announced the transfer of the military command centre from Abuja to the strategic city of Maiduguri, in the northeastern rebel stronghold, and visited Niger and Chad to push for continued cooperation.
On Sunday, he travelled to the G7 summit of leading industrialised nations to garner further support from world powers on the security threat, including intelligence and training. Buhari’s nascent presidency has however seen an increase in suspected Boko Haram attacks, with 11 recorded since he took the oath of office and at least 93 deaths.