President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday travelled to Paris, France, to meet with other West African leaders as part of moves to stamp out the growing influence of Boko Haram, the dreaded terrorist group, across the sub-region and even beyond.
The meeting, which begins today (Saturday), was convened by France at the request of Jonathan and will have leaders and top officials from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin in attendance.
Some Western officials are also expected to be present at the summit.
The meeting became imperative following the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, a remote community in Borno State on April 14.
Even though a Western military action had been widely tipped to be the only viable option of rescuing the girls, French diplomats said they expected a regional plan to take shape first as the battle against the terrorist group gathers momentum.
“The aim is to come up with an action plan this weekend so that these countries, with the support of the West, cooperate in terms of intelligence gathering, information exchange and border control to stop Boko Haram smuggling weapons and moving freely in this zone,” a French diplomatic official said.
“There is absolutely no dialogue between Cameroon and Nigeria. Until now, Cameroon has not accepted it has a problem – but it has been destabilised in the north by Boko Haram and in the east by the influx of refugees from Central African Republic. It must talk with Nigeria.”
With about 6,000 troops operating in Mali and Central African Republic, France fears the security situation could further spread to other parts of the region and in fact beyond if not immediately curbed.
The Federal Government already has the blessings of Niger to allow its soldiers cross the border in its haunt of the fundamentalists. It is currently discussing with Chad over a similar arrangement.
The Federal Government hopes also that Cameroon would tighten its border in support of the ongoing efforts at tackling the problem.