Aidoghie Paulinus and Olivia Kalu, Abuja
Outgoing French Ambassador to Nigeria, Denys Gauer, has dismissed insinuations that the continuous attacks by Boko Haram terrorists in the North East, in spite of international presence, meant the insurgents had the backing of the international community.
Gauer, who spoke in Abuja, at a press conference to commemorate the French National Day, also said he did not share the view that there were international interests who do not want the conflict to come to an end.
He added that it cost the international community a lot of money to engage in the cooperation in the North East.
Gauer recalled the intervention of France in Mali when insurgents overran the West African country, saying that the country was threatened to be overcome, but for the timely intervention of France.
Gauer said: “We began in Mali. What happened in Mali? Mali was attacked by terrorist group and my armed forces were able to fight against that.
“So, Mali was threatened to be completely overcome by terrorist movements and everybody imagined what would have been the consequences for all, including the neighbours for all of Western Africa if Mali would have been overcome by terrorist group. That was why we intervened then at the demand of the Malian authorities.
“Of course, we knew that the terrorist groups were not only in Mali. They are in anywhere. They don’t know any borders. So, they travel across all Sahelian areas. That is why we expanded our presence and our effort to the whole Sahelian area.
“And then came this problem with Boko Haram. In 2014, Boko Haram had presence in the northeast of Nigeria. I mean, they controlled a territory the size of Belgium in the northeast of Nigeria in 2014. And at that time in 2014, there was absolutely no foreign presence and no western presence.
“In 2014, there was no European or no western NGO in the whole of the northeast of Nigeria. But the only ones that were there were International Red Cross and MSF (Doctors without Borders).
Nobody was there. No cooperation activities were there. And the United Nations (UN) was not there in 2014. At worst, the worst point for Boko Haram.”
Gauer added that it was as a result of the appeal made by former President Goodluck Jonathan to ex-French President Francoise Hollandè to build a synergy with neighbouring countries that made France to intervene.
On the herdsmen killings across the country, Gauer said he had no indication that foreigners were involved in it, while also saying that foreigners may be involved.
He said he did not believe that the issue had to do with foreigners, adding that is an economic problem in Nigeria.
Gauer further said even if foreigners were involved in causing the mayhem, it is not a problem of foreigners.
He further said considerable progress had been made in tackling Boko Haram in the country as they have been weakened, divided and no longer in control of any territory or city.