The president said current military operation was vital to mop up weapons.
No matter the cost, the excesses of extremist group, Boko Haram, must stop, President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed in a new resolve that comes two weeks into a broad military campaign to root out the militants in three northeast states.
“The excesses of Boko Haram must stop. That is the decision of this present government now. It must stop, whatever it will cost the government, it must stop,” Mr. Jonathan said in an interview with journalists on the sideline of the 21st ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Africa Union holding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The president said his administration would not fold its arms and watch the violent Islamic group continue to kill innocent citizens.
The President who noted that terrorism was a global problem with the United States and United Kingdom and other countries having their shares, said his administration was working to ensure it is contained with immediate, medium and long term strategies.
Mr. Jonathan said under the short term, military intervention was compulsory since a lot of weapons found their ways into the country because of the Libya crisis and it was important for the weapons to be mopped up.
“For the short term, of course, there must be military intervention, we must beef up security, we must change the security architecture to make sure that we detect that something is about to happen before it happens so that we will be able to stop it,” he said.
“We have stopped a number of incidents in the country. It is just that the few that happened affect life and whenever life is affected, you will not even think that somebody is doing anything.”
The president said the need to “go all out to make sure that we seize these weapons” informed the recent declaration of emergency rule in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. “We must comb the whole place to seize all these weapons and so on.”
“A lot of free weapons come in because of the Libya crisis. We must seize them. They are illegal weapons and must be seized and you cannot do that without declaring a state of emergency to enable the military enter any house, whether it is a residential building, it is a church, a mosque, a shrine, anywhere, hotel, anything that we suspect. We will be able to enter and seize these weapons.
He said in the medium term, the government will concentrate more on education as the part of the country where there is prevalence of Boko Haram activities has the highest rate of school dropout.
As part of that plan, the federal government will intervene to improve education in those areas although the Constitution puts the issue of basic education under the watch of state and local governments.
He enumerated creating economic environment as another approach adopted by government, so that individuals would be able to fend for themselves.
“We are doing that in terms of our own agriculture programme. We are doing that in what we call community services, local roads, renovation of health centres, primary schools and so on. A number of men and women are involved; road rehabilitation, clearing of roads and so on.
“So, we are also encouraging young people to be on their own through YouWin. The fairly enlightened ones who think they have some businesses to do will submit a proposal to a neutral body and if they select you, we give you grant, not loan. That alone is helping.
“The idea is that if you can set up micro and small businesses, that if one youth that benefit can employ five others that means by the time you give to 1000 and something to multiply by five on the average and the results are quite promising. And we are doing robustly in agriculture.
“That is why we are encouraging more of irrigation because like in the northern part of the country, where you have vast land for farming, incidentally it is savannah area where water is not that common compared to the south. So, we must irrigate to provide water and have farm settlements.
“Because some of the interviews they get from people who have been involved and were arrested, they didn’t even know. They just tell them stories and they are just carried away. Coupled with the fact that some of them are sub adults and they don’t have means of survival and their parents themselves cannot take care of them. So, they become very susceptible to mischievous characters who can just provide them little food and use them to kill people.”
The President also said the threat posed by the Islamic sect to the country and the sub region could be more devastating if the government had not moved fast.
He said Nigeria was becoming difficult for the militants to operate, as some of the sect members recently moved into Niger Republic with suicide attacks in two places simultaneously leading to the death of about 20 Nigerien soldiers.
“Niger Republic had been relatively calm although they have been noticing the movement because it is a general area from Mali, Niger, Chad to Nigeria, but because Nigeria is fairly big, we now said ‘no, this must stop,’ Mr. Jonathan said.
“They are now moving, Central Africa, North Africa, West Africa; East Africa is not also safe. Even in Ethiopia here, there were a lot of terrorist activities before but it is now coming down. Same with Somalia. So, it is only southern Africa that is relatively peaceful in terms of terror.
“It is a serious business. That it why all presidents and heads of government on this continent must come together to fight, otherwise, they will create more problems especially for countries that cannot contain them.
“Luckily, Nigeria is fairly rugged, fairly robust. So, we can confront it and we are confronting it now because we can no longer watch people being killed and it must stop.”