The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Defence, is currently perfecting strategies in collaboration with the defence ministries of 28 African states, to establish a counter-terrorism force.
The force is expected to tackle terrorist groups in the Saharan region, particularly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters, and Boko Haram.
The resolution was contained in a communiqué tagged ‘Abuja Declaration’, issued after a meeting convened by the defence ministers in Abuja from Wednesday to Friday, to seek regional cooperation, towards combating ISIS and other terrorist groups.
In the Abuja Declaration, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent on Saturday, the defence ministers said they were “strongly concerned by developments in Libya, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia, the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, characterised by crises and terrorist groups’ activities.”
Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said the meeting would submit its recommendations to the Conference of Heads of State and Government for onward implementation, noting that it would not be talks alone as usual.
Part of the declaration reads, “The Ministers of Defence of member countries of the Community of Sahel-Saharan states meeting in Abuja are convinced that security in Sahel-Saharan area is a major concern. We are concerned by the regional upsurge and expansion of terrorist activities in parts of the Sahel-Saharan region.
“We have decided to intensify bilateral, multilateral and sub-regional security and military cooperation among member states.
“We have agreed on the following measures which we will submit to the Conference of Heads of State and Government; there will be a continuation of the fight against residual mercenaries and foreign combatants in the region.
“We agree on the call for the rapid opening of the Sahel Saharan Counter-Terrorism Centre with a view to accelerating cooperation in the various areas related to the fight against terrorism. We will support all regional initiatives in the fight against terrorism.
“We will also support the implementation of strategies for the resettlement and return of conflict displaced persons with particular emphasis on the socio-economic reconstruction of affected communities.”
The defence ministers also agreed that every country would implement national plans on counter terrorism and accompany them with “demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes.”
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, has said its findings revealed that the Al Barnawi faction of the Boko Haram terrorists pledged allegiance to the ISIS fighters in 2016 after Operation Lafiya Dole troops in the North-East dislodged them from the Sambisa Forest area of Borno State.
The acting Director of Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. John Agim, said there was, however, no evidence from military intelligence that the ISIS group was sending its members to Nigeria to train Boko Haram terrorists.
Agim said the military would outwit all tactics by the terrorist group to have any foreign collaboration.