FG to Clinton- Don't brand Boko Haram as terrorist group

THE NATION Newspaper- Yusuf Alli

The planned designation of the Islamist sect,Boko Haram,as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) or International Terrorist Organisation (ITO) by the United States of America (USA) may not come to pass afterall, it emerged yesterday in Abuja.

The Federal Government, according to highly placed sources,has succeeded in securing a positive commitment from the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on the issue.

Clinton was in Nigeria on Thursday during which he met with President Goodluck Jonathan, top government officials and security functionaries.

Boko Haram and the threat it posed to the nation topped the agenda at the meetings.

Besides, the US offered to give intelligence support and strengthen Nigeria’s capacity to check the menace of the sect.

It was gathered that the Federal Government pleaded with the US Secretary of State and members of her delegation to shelve the designation plan.

One source said: “In making a case against the designation of Boko Haram as a terrorist group, the Federal Government took into consideration the fact that it will look like a sanction which will hurt innocent Nigerians.

“Some people think that the designation will only hurt Boko Haram members without knowing that all of us will bear the brunt.

“We realized that it might scare away investors from Nigeria and lead to visa restriction and subjection of Nigerians to maltreatment at airports all over the world, including frisking of their bodies and other harsh measures.

“And once the US does that, the EU countries will follow. The consequence of the designation is that this country will return to the club of pariah nations. This will surely in turn hurt our economy.

“So, the government pleaded with the US Secretary of State and other top officials against designation.

“We also succeeded in explaining in details what we have been doing to check insurgency in some parts of the country. As a matter of fact, the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, was at the session to brief the US delegation.

“The Federal Government delegation was optimistic that with steps taken so far and its readiness for dialogue, the Boko Haram menace can be tackled.

“We were able to convince the delegation that it will be counter-productive to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group since the US considers Nigeria as its‘strategic partner’ in the sub-region.

“The US Secretary of State and others were positive in their response. They agreed with us that there is no need yet to take a drastic designation action against Boko Haram.

“So, we are positive that they will shelve the plan and cooperate with us to strengthen our capacity to address our security challenges.

“One of the key areas they are looking at is about how to assist us in intelligence gathering and empower our security agencies (in terms of training and exposure) to address the Boko Haram insurgency.”

When contacted last night, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, only spoke about the gains of the bilateral session with the US Secretary of State without any reference to security matters.

He said:”For about two hours, we were all engrossed with how to improve ties between the two countries. The US promised to support us and back our reforms.

“We decided to explore more cooperation on agriculture, power and petroleum resources. Clinton explained that some American companies are interested in agriculture and gas turbines in Nigeria .

“We are expecting more investors from the US in these key areas of the economy. It was a major foreign policy breakthrough for us as a nation.”


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