Says Better Co-operation Would Have Long Ended Insurgency •Aso Villa De-accredits German Radio Reporter Over Visit
President of Chad, Idris Deby, in Abuja on Monday said he had no idea of the whereabouts of Boko Haram terrorist leader, Abubakar Shekau, contrary to earlier reports credited to him that he knew where the fugitive was hiding.
A massive manhunt is on for Shekau, who has led the sect on a murderous streak of bombings, kidnapping and arson in Nigeria’s Northeast since 2009.
Deby who addressed State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, said: “I cannot tell you today that I know where Shekau is hiding and even if I knew I won’t tell you.”
He however said Shekau could have long been captured and the menace ended, if Nigerian and Chadian forces had collaborated better in joint military operations.
Asked if he knew where Shekau could be captured, the Chadian leader’s response in French was interpreted thus: “It is regrettable that the two armies, that is the Nigerian army and the Chadian Army, are working separately on the field; they are not undertaking joint operations.
“If they were operating joint operations, probably they would have achieved more results,” he added.
Asked to explain the relationship between troops of the multinational task force fighting in Lake Chad and the South African mercenaries fighting with them in the Northeast, Deby replied: “I have no information concerning mercenaries from South Africa.”
Speaking on his mission to the Villa, Deby who addressed the press alongside Jonathan, said: “I came to consult with my brother, President Goodluck Jonathan. As you all know Nigeria and Chad are two countries that have a lot of similarities in fighting insurgents.
“Chad has had its own problems in the 70s and 80s and Nigeria assisted Chad during those difficulties times.
“On the 2015 general elections, I came principally to congratulate Mr. President for the statesmanship he demonstrated during the elections.
“We all know that elections in Africa are always contested but Mr. President demonstrated a lot of statesmanship, that he is a real democrat by conceding and congratulating the President-elect.
“You all know that when Nigeria sneezes, the neighbouring countries catch cold. If Mr. President had not taken that laudable initiative you all know what would have happened now.
“Nigeria is still living in peace, you all are living in peace and that would not have happened but for that laudable initiative he took. So, I came to congratulate him for leaving a legacy not only for Nigeria but for Africa as a whole.
“As you all know we both work together to fight Boko Haram. I thought it was important that before Mr. President leaves office, I would come for us to have overview of what we did together, what we achieved together in the fight against Boko Haram.
“It is true Boko Haram has not been completely eradicated but they have been tremendously weakened. I did not want to wait and come during the inauguration of the new government, he added.
Still on the issue of Boko Haram, the Chadian leader who Jonathan visited twice to seek cooperation against the terrorists, noted that Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger are currently securing the Lake Chad Basin.
“The four countries have managed to form a multinational mixed force that will metamorphose into what is probably known as a Rapid Response Force that the African Union is trying to form for Africa”, he added.
There were reports at the weekend that Shekau, on who the United States is still maintaining a $7 million (N1.4 billion) bounty and who is listed among 71 most-wanted terrorists in the world with bounties totalling $375 million (N74.6 billion), had fled Nigeria.
Nigerian troops had in recent weeks stormed the dreaded Sambisa Forest, setting over 1000 girls and women free.
One report noted that Shekau’s escape may have been facilitated by the Islamic State (ISIS) group to which the Boko Haram leader earlier pledged allegiance.
Meanwhile, soon after the Chadian president left, Aso Rock security apparatus invited Ubale Musa, the State House correspondent representing German Radio, Deustche Welle, for questioning and thereafter withdrew his accreditation to cover the Presidency.
Before he was escorted out of the Villa by security details, in a Toyota Hilux van. Ubale was allowed to pick his laptop and recording gadgets during which he informed his colleagues of the encounter with the security operatives.
Ubale said the security operatives were apparently uncomfortable with the questions he posed to the Chadian President on the whereabouts of Shekau and the presence of South African mercenary fighters in Nigeria’s Northeast.
Although Deby, standing right beside his host, had denied having any information on such development, Aso Rock authorities apparently felt embarrassed by Ubale’s question, and consequently barred him from the Villa.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, however assured journalists who met him over the incident that it would be resolved appropriately.