I was delighted to visit Nigeria again, the second time in a year, to meet with President Buhari and attend the second Regional Security Summit. Combating violent extremism is a global challenge, which has affected many of our countries in Europe, just as you are tackling it here in Nigeria. That is why I welcomed President Buhari’s call to hold this important summit. The UK and Nigeria have a strong and long-standing relationship. President Buhari’s recent visit to the UK for London’s Anti-Corruption Summit underlines the importance of our partnership. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria as it tackles corruption, something President Buhari himself has said has become a ‘way of life’.
During my visit, I was struck by how much progress had been made on President Buhari’s manifesto since I was last here for the President’s inauguration. In particular, significant improvements in security stood out. Over the last 12 months, action by Nigeria and its neighbours, with the support of friends in the international community, has greatly diminished Boko Haram. We have reduced their strength and the territory they control. I congratulate President Buhari and other leaders in the region on this progress.
But the attacks in Maiduguri two weeks ago, as well as the second anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls last month, are a sobering and chilling reminder of the evil of Boko Haram. I am very pleased that one of the girls abducted by Boko Haram appears to have been rescued, but many more victims of Boko Haram are yet to be found – there is still much more to do.
This is why the Regional Security Summit, which brought together leaders from across the world, including the UK, US and France, was vital. The Summit allowed international leaders to take stock of all that had been done in the fight against Boko Haram. It underlined just how much international will and support there was for this to continue. And it also reminded us that we have to maintain and build on what has already been achieved.
During my last visit for President Buhari’s inauguration, I said that the UK stands ready to support President Buhari and his new government as they begin their programme for a secure and prosperous Nigeria. I reinforced this message at the Security Summit. For our part, the United Kingdom, working together with the United States and France, have supported Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin. We have provided military, intelligence, humanitarian and
development support. In 2015, over 1,000 Nigerian military personnel received British training before their deployment against Boko Haram in the North East. British teams based in Nigeria are supporting the Nigerian armed forces to develop intelligence and counter the threat from IEDs.
The UK has also strongly supported regional cooperation. We were pleased to be the first international donor to the Multinational Joint Taskforce, providing £5million. Together with the US and France we are part of the Coordination and Liaison Cell in N’djamena and are supporting regional intelligence sharing.
We are also providing millions of pounds in humanitarian support to help those most affected by Boko Haram. This vital aid is providing food, water, sanitation and emergency healthcare for up to 7 million people across Nigeria, including over two million people displaced from their homes by Boko Haram.
But for the UK and others’ support to work requires Nigerian political willingness. It means a comprehensive, politically led approach, paying urgent attention to humanitarian needs, such as the forgotten crisis in the Lake Chad Basin. It also means ensuring that detainees and defectors are managed through a transparent and effective criminal justice programme, and that individuals’ human rights are respected.
Sustainable peace and security for the communities of NE Nigeria will take focused economic development and political support, as well as building strong links between civilian and military institutions. The Federal Government in Abuja and State Governments need to work closely
together, as well as greater cooperation between regional partners.
Events such as the May 14 Security Summit allow for the international community to come together, to restate their commitment to support the fight against Boko Haram, and to maintain and build upon what has already been done. A clear, strategic plan to defeat Boko Haram will
help return the region to peace and allow the Nigerian people to go about their normal lives. I commend you for your resilience and fortitude thus far, which we will all need to sustain until we
Hammond is the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs