FRANCE intends to help Nigeria overcome terrorism and insurgency by amongst other measures, providing high-calibre intelligence reports leveraging on its special relationship with Nigeria’s French-speaking neighbours like Cameroon.
France sees terrorism largely as a regional problem, one that needs not just the collaboration of neighbours but also development partners.
The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jacques Champagne de Labriolle, stated this in an interview with The Guardian at the weekend.
It is believed that the shared intelligence reports such that France is now offering, is largely responsible for the recent breakthrough by the Nigerian counter-terrorism team and the military joint task force in foiling bomb attack plans by members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect in parts of the North-East.
France has defence pact with her former colonies which surround Nigeria. Cameroun and Niger have lately been fingered by intelligence reports of harbouring some terrorist cells apart from the provision of what appears to be safe havens for insurgents who have been striking at both soft and hard targets in North-East of Nigeria.
Last month, during a visit to Nigeria, French President Francois Hollande pledged his country’s support in the war against terrorism and insurgency by extremist group Boko Haram as France’s way of defending democracy.
Hollande told delegates at a security summit in Abuja ahead of Nigeria’s unification centenary celebrations: “Your struggle is also our struggle.”
Although Labriolle fought stridently against exposing the nitty-gritty of the French support for strategic reasons, he stressed that the role intelligence reports sharing in the fight against terrorism can never be underestimated.
He said: “This is not a matter which is meant to be public. But it includes intelligence, intelligence sharing, strategic information and data. Things like these are not meant to be public as you can see; help is going on, you know in a very useful way which is also that we have good relations with the neighbouring countries and we can share views and bring assistance on what is going on.”
He added: “The regional dimension is what I believe is where we can help best. You were saying that the terrorists are coming from Cameroon. They are not coming from Cameroon, they are just coming and going very easily because the borders were not really secured. It is a matter of exchanges, legal and illegal that have gone on for decades that now have a consequence, that is very difficult to prevent people crossing the border which is the problem because security forces of one country cannot go after them in another country, this is not the state of international relations as we speak...”
On the collaborative nature the French involvement in the days ahead, he said: “Our ideal which is drawn from the lessons we learnt in the Sahel is that for a long time, terrorists have been hiding in neighbouring countries, sometimes having deep-rooted shelters and things like that, it is part of the action against terrorism to address this so we came to think that instead of just speaking of borders and trying to see that the specific line between two countries be not crossed, a deep analysis would now be put at the centre of the thinking that it’s a regional wide action that is needed, it’s a borderless region which is at stake with people from both side that may have problems that have to be addressed for terrorism to recede. I have said earlier that terrorism is also a consequence of a certain state of things in terms of economic, social and political development and this has to be addressed within the frame-work of inclusive strategies. That is something that we can help and as we have a good record working with the neighbouring countries, indeed we have been discussing with them and with Nigeria on how best is the way out of this crisis.”