Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on Monday described the Boko Haram sect as a threat to other regions.
He also said US was collaborating with the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to rescue the schoolgirls abducted in Dapchi, Yobe State, recently.
Tillerson said this at a press conference he addressed alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, after a meeting he had with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said, “I think it is also important to put this in a broad regional context as well. Boko Haram is a threat to other regions and this has been the subject of my meetings elsewhere and in Africa as well.
“In my discussion with President Derby in Chad earlier today (Monday), we spoke about the threat of Boko Haram and I think it is important and it’s really been powerful.
“The collaboration between the joint task force which Nigeria is a part and Chad is a part, to respond to this threat of terrorism which Boko Haram is one of the organisations, there are other threats that the leadership of this country has to deal with.”
When asked the specific ways the US would assist Nigeria to rescue the abducted girls, Tillerson said the US respected the responsibilities of the government of Nigeria and the territorial integrity of the country.
That notwithstanding, he said the US government was supporting Nigeria, by providing capacity building with equipment and also training of the personnel of special operations and sharing intelligence to ensure that they had all the information available to carry out the recovery effort.
“So, the United States is ready to engage and coordinate efforts as well. But we have been supporting, equipping, training and when we can, provide information.
“I think that is the best way we have been helping the government of Nigeria to secure the release of the girls, which we hope, will be done in a peaceful manner.
“We hope that something can be worked out and they can secure the release of these girls quickly,” he said.
When asked why he advised African countries against Chinese loans, Tillerson clarified that his intention was not to stop Chinese investments from flowing to countries that need those investments.
He said he only cautioned the countries to look carefully, “that the implications of the level of debts, the terms of the debts, and whether the arrangements around the local financing are in fact creating jobs, local capacity or the projects being carried out by foreign labour being brought to your country, is the structure of the financing such that you will always be in control of your infrastructure?
“Are there mechanism to deal with the faults so that you do not lose ownership of your own assets? These are national assets whether they are ports, railways, or major highways.”
Tillerson said he had seen this occurred in other countries that were not so careful and “they got themselves in situation where they awfully lost control of their infrastructure, lost the ownership and the operational relationship of it.
“And that is the precaution that we are talking about. That there are international rules and norms and financial structure to deal with unforeseen circumstances and I think we are just cautioning countries to look carefully.
“There are other alternative financing mechanisms that are available and I think in particular, if the government creates the right conditions around those infrastructures investments, there are also great potential for public-private sector co-investing in the infrastructure. And we are developing mechanism that will also create alternative opportunities financing offer.
“We have seen many around the world that did not work out so well and we are just saying as friends, be careful.”
Onyeama said everything was being done to secure the release of the Dapchi girls.
The minister said, “Fighting terrorism is a new challenge globally. When we talked of having degraded Boko Haram, we were referring specifically to the situation that we were confronted with when the government took over.
“That was a situation where you had a classical military confrontation and Boko Haram was capturing territory, holding onto territory and hoisting flags. So, as a conventional military threat, Boko Haram has been completely degraded.
“Now, there is a challenge with regards to sporadic suicides and bombings and of course largely, there is kidnapping of the girls.
“We don’t by any stretch of the imagination minimise those but it’s really a different kind of warfare as it is and the government is sparing no effort in addressing that.”
When asked why things seem to be getting worse despite the collaboration with the task force and the US, Onyeama said that was not correct.
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