By Rotimi Ijikanmi
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema has given details of how President Muhammadu Buhari deployed diplomatic engagements to end activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East.
The minister spoke on Thursday in Abuja at the 22nd edition of the PMB Administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023) organised to project the achievements of the Buhari government.
Onyema recalled that before the Buhari administration came on hoard in 2015 the threats posed by Boko Haram had become alarming, as the insurgent group had taken over some parts of Nigerian territory.
He said upon assumption of office, the President personally engaged with Nigeria’s neighbours -Cameroon, Chad, Benin Republic and Niger Republic – to engender renewed efforts in countering terrorism in the Lake Chad region.
The engagements according to the minister, led to the formation of a military coalition, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), with the support of AU and UN, deployed to fight the terror group.
The minister said the bilateral engagement by the President extended to partners across the Atlantic, particularly the United States.
He said with the approval of the President, the foreign affairs ministry negotiated improved relations between Nigeria and the U.S.
Onyema said this paved way for the sale and delivery of twelve A-29 Super Tucano military aircraft and weapons to fight insurgency.
According to the minister, the request for the purchase of the platforms had been rejected by the US Parliament before the emergence of the Buhari administration.
“The ministry also brokered an exchange of visits between President Buhari and his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan in 2016 and 2017, respectively, leading to the signing of several MoUs, especially the Defence Industry Cooperation of 2021.
“This enabled Nigeria to purchase from Turkey 6T-129 Attack helicopters and 6TB2 Drones to fight insurgency. A number of these visits were undertaken with purposeful results.”
At the Multilateral level, Onyema said with the support of President Buhari, the ministry was able to convince the United Nations to approve the listing of Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) as a terrorists organisation.
He said the UN equally approved sanctions regime for ISWAP, a splinter group of Boko Haram in the Al-Qaida, pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 4 of UNSC Resolution 2368 (2017).
The minister said the approvals by the UN helped to put the fight against Boko Haram and ISWAP on global front agenda
Onyema said the ministry had since 2015 ensured the renewal of the MNJTF by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC).
He said the efforts, to a large extent, complemented other national efforts in degrading terrorist groups.
The minister recalled when the country faced the challenge of some unfounded human rights narratives regarding counter-terrorism activities in the Northeast.
In addressing the challenge, he said the President pushed for the re-election of Nigeria into the global Human Rights Council.
The minister said the re-election provided the delegation with the ample opportunity to defend and put the negative narratives into proper perspective.
Onyema said through diplomatic engagements, President Buhari was also able to get international supports in addressing the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram crisis.
Specifically, he said with the support of the President, his ministry engaged with the UN, Norway and Germany, which led to the donation of billions
dollars for humanitarian intervention.
The funds, according to the minister were used in the repatriation of refugees, reintegration of displaced persons and for Lake Chad stabilisation strategy.
He noted that the drying up of the Lake Chad, which serves as source of livelihood for over 40 million people who live around the lake, was one of the drivers of the crisis in the region.
The minister said the President’s diplomacy helped to secure international agenda for the recharge of Lake Chad, of which work is ongoing.