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Regional counter-terrorism centre for intelligence sharing, operational coordination, a must – Tinubu

"A number of factors, including organized crime, foreign terrorist financing and training, poverty, inequality, and prolonged conflicts, among others, drive terrorism in Africa" - Ribadu

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President Bola Tinubu made a case on Monday for the establishment of a regional counter-terrorism centre that will serve as an African hub for intelligence sharing, operational coordination, and capacity building.

Tinubu said Africa must adopt a comprehensive approach to combating terrorism, not only through military might but also by addressing the root causes of the scourge, which include poverty, inequality, and social injustice.

He spoke at the African High-Level Meeting on Counter-Terrorism in Abuja.

While seeking to address the root causes of terrorism, the Nigerian leader said Africa must also attack the roots that feed this evil branch — ransom and illegal mining — as terrorism evolves and perfects ways to continuously finance, re-equip, and re-supply itself for its sinister mission.

Tinubu said: “Not only does it kidnap people, it kidnaps precious resources. Billions upon billions of dollars that legitimate governments should be using to sculpt better societies by providing education, healthcare, and food for their people now go to pay for weapons and response to mayhem.

“Look at the illegal mining that plagues so many of our nations today. Those who think illegal mining has no connection with financing terrorism are sorely mistaken.

“The international community has both the moral and legal obligation to help in this cause because it is external finance, not African money, that fuels these illegal operations.

“We shall be knocking on the door of the international community to answer this call for justice, peace, and fair play.

“Key to our collective efforts against terrorism is the urgent need for a fully operational Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre.”

The President emphasized the need for strengthening the current counter-terrorism structures, including the Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit (RIFU) in Abuja, the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) in Algiers, and the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) in Addis Ababa.

Tinubu stressed the need for a regional standby force that includes tackling terrorism as part of its mandate.

“It must not be abandoned. I am mindful of the funding, legal, and logistical complexities that face the proper establishment of such a force.

“However, with a prudent and clearly defined mandate that accords with international law and respects national sovereignty, such a force can serve as a rapid deployment mechanism, capable of swiftly responding to major threats and bolstering the security of our region.

“Such a force can stand as a strong deterrent to large-scale and protracted terrorist operations and the capture, occupation, or disruption of strategic land and resources. We must continue to make careful yet meaningful progress towards this goal.

“Establishing an all-inclusive African Union Ministerial Committee on Counter-Terrorism is also a high priority, as envisaged in the Declaration of the 16th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union Assembly two years ago in May 2022.

“This would ensure that a forum of high-level government officials meets regularly to assess our counter-terrorism efforts and provide guidance on how to further improve,” Tinubu said.

On the part of Nigeria, the President said the nation’s counter-terrorism capabilities have been enhanced through the enactment of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act, establishing the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

“We have and will continue to take bold steps forward in safeguarding our nation and the wider region. Dedicated to coordinating and implementing counter-terrorism strategies, the NCTC significantly enhances our capacity to detect, prevent, and respond to terrorist threats.

“The Centre has become a platform, fostering greater collaboration among stakeholders and promoting synergy in our approach to fighting terrorism.

“Similarly, our security forces continue to demonstrate courage and dedication in the fight against terrorism, often at great personal risk. I am grateful for the selfless work and sacrifice of these patriotic men and women. They are the best of the best.

“I must also mention the ongoing need to halt the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) on the continent. No one state can solve this problem for itself. It requires continuous and concerted action by all of us.

“We need to reposition our regional organizations and build the capacity of our national institutions to effectively address this element of terrorism and violent extremism.”

The President said Nigeria is committed to working with regional partners to strengthen arms control measures, enhance border security, and disrupt the illicit trafficking networks that fuel terrorism and organized crime, while urging firm and expeditious actions against prevailing insecurity on the continent.

“As leaders, let us show our people that their safety and welfare are paramount. May this conference be succinct and to the point. Let us keep rhetoric to a minimum.

“Let us be focused and dedicated to pinpointing solutions and embarking on the meaningful and strong action needed to win the day and free our continent of violent extremists.

“May we do everything that is required of us to defeat this challenge so that five, ten, or twenty years from now, it will be historians who will be meeting to discuss how today became a major turning point in the African continent’s defeat of the terrorist scourge,” the President also said.

Earlier, retired AIG Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser, stated that a number of factors, including organized crime, foreign terrorist financing and training, poverty, inequality, and prolonged conflicts, among others, drive terrorism in Africa.

He said Nigeria is dealing decisively with all drivers of violent extremism, including economic and social enablers, while enhancing intelligence gathering through improved inter-agency collaboration and confidence building with citizens.

He also stated that Nigeria is strengthening its judiciary to effectively deal with terrorism cases and has earmarked a fund to boost counter-terrorism efforts.

“We have resumed the prosecution of Boko Haram suspects across the country.”

In her remarks, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms. Amina Mohammed, suggested that one of the ways to remove the engenderers of terrorism on the continent is for Africa to work to rebuild its social contract with its citizens and deliver good governance.

“Rebuilding the social contract is necessary for recovery. We must pay attention to women and girls who are greatly impacted by terrorism, including youth. Providing support and healing for those impacted by terrorism is important,” she said.

The Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), Mr. Vladimir Voronkov commended Nigeria for its leadership in counter-terrorism in Africa and for hosting the meeting.

“Terrorism is a threat to peace and security, particularly in Africa, where its impact is mostly felt. The success of UNOCT in Africa hinges on its support for Africa-led programs and solutions.”

Attendees at the meeting included Ms. Amina Mohammed, Deputy UN Secretary-General; Vladimir Voronkov, UNOCT Under Secretary-General; Leonardo Santos Simão, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS); and other high-level UN officials.

African leaders including President Patrice Talon of the Republic of Benin; President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo; Moussa Mahmat, chairperson of the African Union (AU) commission; and Hanana Hanana, the Minister of National Defence, Mauritius, were also present.

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