President Goodluck Jonathan has said that his administration is working assiduously on some available clues to identify the external sponsors of the fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
He said the recent large scale attack in parts of Maiduguri, Borno State, including the Air Force Base, had further confirmed the government’s suspicion that the sect enjoyed international backing.
He spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria and France 24 Radio at the close of a two-day summit on peace and security in Africa, hosted by President Francois Hollande in France on Saturday.
Jonathan, who said the insurgents arrived in Maiduguri with between 15 and 20 vehicles, each mounted with rocket launchers,added that he had approved N1bn for the rehabilitation of detention camps of insurgents across the country.
He stated that Nigeria was seeking the collaboration of friends of the nation to unravel the foreign sponsors of the insurgents.
The President said, “We believe that a lot of assistance is coming (to the sect) from outside the country.
“We have not been able to pin down the sources and that is why we are talking to our friends that we should collectively work together to identify the source of their funding.
“A terror on any part of the world is a terror on all of us.”
Jonathan said Maiduguri attack clearly showed that the sect’s operations had gone beyond its classification as a local militia group.
“Initially, we felt that they were local and as such, some people advocated that because of poverty, these locals carried weapons against the State. So you expect that sophistication will be minimal and you will be able to contain it easily.
“But looking at the calibre of weapons they have, you will find out that they have gone beyond the local expectation. For instance, this last attack on Maiduguri, they came with about 15 to 20 Hilux vehicles and each mounted with two to four rocket launchers.
“They were over 100 and some of them were carrying assault rifles and other weapons. The question then is that, where do they get the weapons? Definitely, these weapons cannot come from the locals, they are coming from somewhere.’’
He said while military operations would continue in the affected parts of the county in order to protect lives and property, his administration had not foreclosed the option of dialogue with the sect .
Jonathan also said he approved the release of the N1bn for the upgrade of insurgents detention camps in response to a series of complaints by local and international human rights groups.
He said the development would ensure that detainees were kept under normal human conditions.
Specifically, the President said he was concerned over a human rights report on the situation of Giwa Barracks where some of the detainees were kept.
The President added, “They were talking about some conditions in the barracks and because of that, not quite long, I released N1bn to make sure that they expand the facilities in detention camps, particularly the camp in Giwa Barracks that they complained about.
“Boko Haram members that have been arrested are being detained in a number of places and not only Giwa Barracks.
“Following complaints that I received about that particular barracks, I called the Chief of Defence Staff to go and use the army engineers to quickly expand and improve the facilities so that people arrested will live under normal human conditions.”
Jonathan however added that the reports of human rights abuses by the Joint Military Task Force were grossly exaggerated.
He attributed most of the cases of torture and killings the military is being blamed for to the sect.
“The issue of human rights abuses is blown out of proportion. Whenever they have a major encounter, Boko Haram destroys at will, they kill at will, some of these destructions that are being ascribed to the Nigerian Army are actually done by the Boko Haram sect,’’ he said.
The President said that the state of emergency declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states had helped tremendously in restoring sanity.
He recalled that before the emergency rule, even the Federal Capital Territory was not safe having had its share of terrorist acts with attacks carried out on the United Nations building, the police headquarters, a military market and a newspaper house.
He said the nation had now reached a point that the challenges were now in Borno and Yobe states.
“Even Adamawa , the third state that the emergency rule covers, within this period, there are no issues unlike before that there were repeated killings and bombings.
“Though, we are still having this issue of occasional attacks, but definitely, the emergency rule has helped,’’ he said.
The President also said he had yet to receive a comprehensive report on a French priest that was kidnapped in Northern Cameroon and reported to have been taken to Nigeria.
“No comprehensive information yet on this. But what we know is that it is quite worrisome that the issue of commercial hostage-taking is now a global business. Though, we got the information, but I cannot give any categorical statement. But, we know that the tradition of hostage-takers is mobility because when they are being tracked, they move,” he added.
The 42-year-old Priest, Georges Vandenbeusch, was reportedly kidnapped on Thursday near Koza, in Northern Cameroon.