The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has intensified collaboration with Nigeria’s government to combat cross border terrorist activities carried out by Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, says ECOWAS communication director Sonny Ugoh.
Ugoh says the regional bloc is also working with other neighboring regional organizations including the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to improve security in their member states, following the abduction of more than 200 school girls by the Nigeria-based Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
“There is a collective sense that ECOWAS is willing and determined to support the Nigerian government to address this menace, because what affects one member state affects the others that is the spirit of the ECOWAS Integration project. There is a sense of solidarity [and] the value for the support of each other,” said Ugoh.
His comments follow a U.N. Security Council demand for an unconditional release of the girls abducted by Boko Haram militants. The abduction has attracted worldwide condemnation after group leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to sell the girls into slavery.
The United States, France, Britain, China and other international bodies including Interpol have pledged support to the government in Abuja in a global effort to search and free the abducted school-girls.
The chairman of the ECOWAS commission, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama issued a solidarity statement to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan to assure him of the regional bloc’s support to combat the Boko Haram militants.
“There is recognition, both locally and internationally, that this is an unacceptable behavior. And in response to that the international community has risen to support the ECOWAS position,” said Ugoh. “ECOWAS is ready and willing to work with the Nigerian government to see how this [violence] can be addressed, and use the opportunity to also make a point about the need for us to now increase collaboration within West Africa.”
Ugoh says the Sahel region has recently seen a sharp rise in cross border crimes and terrorism, which he says calls for strong collaboration with other regional blocs to combat the trend.
He says working closely with neighboring countries outside West Africa could send a strong signal to terror groups about the international community’s response and determination to defeat terrorism.
“Some of the terrorism issues that we have to deal with have to do with the situation in the Sahel. So there is a larger issue of the Sahel impact on [us],” said Ugoh. “We are actively working to have a holistic response to these and then working beyond West Africa with our neighbors to see how we can collaborate in responding to the dynamics and the specifics of this in terms of the various manifestation of terrorism in West Africa.”
Ugoh says there is a unanimous global disgust with the abduction of the school girls.
Clottey interview with Sonny Ugoh, ECOWAS Communication Director