- Category: Latest
- Published on Thursday, 09 August 2012 18:27
- Written by Elombah.com
The United States wants to help Nigeria fight Islamists it sees as a growing regional menace, but the country cannot rely on military might alone. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on Thursday said her country was prepared to help Nigeria fight the Boko Haram insurgency in parts of the North. Clinton made the offer at a closed door
meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House, Abuja.
Clinton arrived in Africa's most populous nation on Thursday offering to help President Goodluck Jonathan fight Boko Haram, a Taliban-like group that wants to establish a strict Islamic state in the north of the vast country.
Boko Haram has launched bomb and gun attacks on churches this year that provoked Christians, leading to deadly reprisals against Muslims. Hundreds of people have died and Washington is concerned about insecurity spreading.
"Northern Nigeria also borders Chad, it borders Cameroon, it borders Niger and we are concerned this radicalism could undermine the security of neighbouring states," the senior U.S. official said.
Jonathan's critics say he relies too much on the military to defeat Boko Haram, rather than addressing northerners' grievances, such as poverty and unemployment, and Clinton will lean on him to address the underlying causes of the insurgency.
"A security strategy is not enough," an official travelling with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had earlier tolf Reuters ahead of her arrival in Abuja.
Military crackdowns have had mixed results - reducing Boko Haram's capabilities in some areas but generating anger because of their heavy handedness.
Washington will offer Nigeria help with things like forensics, tracking of suspects and "fusing" disparate strands of police and military intelligence, the U.S. official said.
"We know all too well from our own experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan what can happen if soldiers and police are not operating under appropriate authorities."
"We will encourage them not to use excessive force and to look at this as a ... law enforcement operation designed to catch perpetrators and bring them to justice," he added.
Dressed in black pants and a red top, Clinton arrived State House, Abuja accompanied by Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru.
She arrived under tight security at 3.50p.m in a car marked 140 CMD.
She was immediately ushered into Jonathan’s office for the meeting.
Thereafter, she moved to an expanded 50-minute meeting with the National Security Council, comprising Jonathan (chairman), Vice-President Namadi Sambo (deputy chairman); Chief of Defence Staff; Minister of Interior; Minister of Defence; Minister of Foreign Affairs; National Security Adviser; Inspector-General of Police; and Director-General of the State Security Service.
The meeting discussed the rising security threats in Nigeria; the controversy over calls on Washington to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group as well as Abuja’s reluctance to endorse the appeals; piracy in the Gulf of Guinea; and cooperation between Nigeria and the U.S on security.
During the meeting, she reportedly told her audience that her country was ready to help with forensics, tracking of suspects and “fusing” disparate strands of police and military intelligence.
She also urged the Nigerian government to create an “intelligence fusion cell,” to combine information from the military, spy services, police and other federal, state and local agencies, in combating the growing extremist violence in the country.
After the meeting, the security chiefs and the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), left at 6.10p.m while Clinton left at 6.15p.m for the residence of the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley.
She was scheduled to hold a meeting with Nigerian anti-corruption activists at the ambassador’s residence and depart for the U.S Embassy for a meeting with diplomatic staff.
She thereafter left for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and departed Abuja for Accra for a meeting with President John Mahama.
She will spend the night in Accra and attend the funeral of late Ghana President John Atta Mills on Friday.
On Thursday, the Nigerian military swept through Kogi state in search of gunmen behind a massacre on Monday in which the attackers blocked exits to the Deeper Life Church in the town of Okene and fired at trapped worshippers, killing 19.
Gunmen killed three people in an attack on a mosque in the city the next day. Boko Haram have been known to attack churches and mosques.
"The Inspector General gave us a marching order to get those responsible for the recent killings in Kogi. We have so far arrested four people including a woman. We trailed them to their hideout," Kogi state police commissioner Mohamed Katsina told Reuters by phone.
Residents complained of heavy-handed tactics in the security forces' raid, underscoring the U.S. official's concern.
"The army are raiding our houses one after the other, beating and brutalising people," said Rahamman Bello, a resident of Adavi village on the outskirts of Okene.
"They said they are searching for arms and ammunition. Many of our people are being arrested and molested."
Clinton will also address a law on oil production that has been stuck in parliament for more than five years, leaving majors like Exxon and Chevron uncertain about the regulatory future in Africa's biggest crude producer.
The official said Clinton would urge a "fair and predictable environment" for oil companies in the Petroleum Industry Bill.
"If a bill comes out which appears to undermine the interest of companies, they won't invest," the official said.