ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday in Washington DC reiterated his commitment to crush Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria.
The president who addressed a joint session of United States Institute for Peace (USIP), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Atlantic Council, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES) stressed that failure was not an option for his government.
He vowed that every inch of Nigerian territory lost to Boko Haram members would be reclaimed by his government.
He said: “On the issue of terrorism, Nigerians have lived with fear and insecurity for far too long. The human and material costs of the insurgency in my country and to my people are staggering and unacceptable.
Defeating Boko Haram
“Defeating Boko Haram and finding a durable solution to the underlying causes of the insecurity in Nigeria are therefore a major priority of the new administration. Nigerians understand that terrorism stifles development and undermines the stability of society.
“The Government that I lead is committed, and will do whatever it takes, to free Nigeria from the menace of terrorism. No matter how long it takes, we will reclaim every inch of Nigerian territory that is under the control of Boko Haram. We shall continue to do these within the framework of the rule of law and in compliance with our international and domestic human rights obligations.
“Let me emphasize that, as a Government, we have no illusions whatsoever about the enormity of the challenges ahead of us. We know that it will be a long and bruising struggle, but this is a fight we are in to win. Failure is not an option for us. We do not contemplate it.”
The president said that in his bid to find solution to the problem, he has had to travel to Chad and Niger republic, saying that he was due to travel to Cameroon upon his return from the United States.
He also recalled that he had released $21 billion for the Multi-National Joint Task Force within the region to fight insurgency.
“In the first week of my presidency, I visited Chad and Niger to strengthen cooperation within the Lake Chad Basin Commission Members, the primary region of the Boko Haram insurgency. Upon my return to Nigeria from the US, I shall visit Cameroon on the 29th of July to further strengthen our sub-regional efforts at countering terrorism.
Multi-National Joint Task Force
“Already, I have released twenty-one million US Dollars ($21 million) for the rapid take-off of the Multi-National Joint Task Force. This is the force set up by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria plus Benin to jointly combat the insurgency.
“We are confident that we will defeat terrorism in our country and region, because we have the will to win this fight. We will win because we have the support of the Nigerian people who voted us into office to do things differently in order to secure them from harm and provide for their prosperity and well being. We will win because the United States and indeed, the International Community have pledged to stand with us in solidarity.
“But winning the battle against terrorism means we have to do things differently; after all, the race for the future will never be won by going backward or standing still. Winning means we must change our strategy in a manner that will prioritize the mobilization of maximum capacity to fight terrorism, while ensuring the safety and protection of local communities in the frontline of the fight against terrorism”, he said.
…Rues US terrorism law
President who had a guest of the United States however regretted that the application of Leahy Law which he said has restricted the efforts of the Nigerian Forces as it leveled human rights violation charges against them.
He therefore appealed to the U.S. Congress to soft pedal on the law.
“In our efforts at combating the activities of Boko Haram, the new Government has sought and obtained the support of not only our neighbours, other international friends and partners. Regrettably, the blanket application of the Leahy Law by the United States on the grounds of unproven allegations of human rights violations levelled against our forces has denied us access to appropriate strategic weapons to prosecute the war against the insurgents.
“In the face of abduction of innocent school girls from their hostels, indiscriminate bombings of civilians in markets and places of worship, our forces have remained largely impotent because they do not possess the appropriate weapons and technology which they could have had, had the so called human rights violations not been an obstacle”, the president said.
“Unwittingly, and I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy law amendment by the U. S. Government has aided and abated the Boko Haram terrorist group in the prosecution of its extremist ideology and hate, the indiscriminate killings and maiming of civilians, in raping of women and girls, and in their other heinous crimes. I believe this is not the spirit of the Leahy Laws. I know the American people cannot support any group engaged in these crimes.
“I therefore strongly appeal to both the Executive Arm and the US Congress to examine how the US Government can provide us with far more substantial counter-terrorism assistance with minimal strings. The longer we delay, the deadlier the Boko Haram gets. At all events, we have re-written the rules of engagement protecting the rights of combatants and in particular safeguarding civilians in theatres of conflict.
Speaking on corruption, president Buhari said that the fight against the scourge was a full time job for his government.
He said: “The fight against corruption is a full time job that the Federal Government will carry with sustained resolve. I have always maintained zero tolerance for corruption. I am even more committed to fighting this number one enemy decisively because I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that the much needed impetus for our country’s survival is held back by corruption. I will not allow this to continue.
“Again, as with every action of the government that I lead, we would be fair, just, and scrupulously follow due process, and the rule of law, as enshrined in our Constitution. I will lead by example to ensure the prudent management of Nigeria’s resources. The government will plug the leakages that fuel corruption in Nigeria.”
Successful conduct of 2015 election has shamed prophets of doom
While thanking the international bodies for their support to Nigeria especially in the last general election, the president said that Nigeria had proved that it could conduct a free and fair election.
By the successful transition of power, Buhari said that the country had proved those who predicted the fall of Nigeria after the elections wrong.
He also expressed gratitude to former President Goodluck Jonathan his maturity at conceding defeat.
“As far as the critics and doomsday merchants were concerned, Nigeria’s end was the 2015 general elections. Nigeria was not expected to make it. The general perception was that Nigeria would be undone by violent and disputed elections riven with deep ethnic and religious divisions.
“You all know what happened. Nigeria confounded the pessimists and its critics. All those who predicted the worst possible post-election scenarios for Nigeria missed the mark by very wide margins, because the premises upon which their narratives were based were simply wrong.
“The peaceful conduct and outcome of the 2015 general elections attest to the fact that elections in Africa can be conducted in a free, fair and credible manner, just like in any other part of the world. Those elections were different from previous ones, not only because citizens were allowed to vote, but more importantly, because their votes counted. I must therefore, salute the patriotism and commitment of the Nigerian people who conducted themselves peacefully and responsibly during and after the elections. Similarly, I must also commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the civil society organizations, and other non-state actors for their various efforts at improving the electoral process and entrenching the democratic culture.
“I would like to seize this opportunity also, to once again, pay tribute to my predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for his uncommon display of statesmanship in setting the pace for Africa. His conduct and outlook in the aftermath of the elections have further proven that the African electoral system is gaining strength and maturity”, he said.