Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Institution Building to Address the Evolving Threat of Terrorism in Africa


President Tinubu


By Bola Tinubu



Ladies and Gentlemen

Esteemed Delegates,


With deep respect and appreciation for your commitment to ending this threat to the peace and well-being of our continent and its people, I thank you for honouring our invitation to participate in this High-level Counter-Terrorism Meeting.

In joining us today, you have demonstrated your understanding of the urgency of the current situation and the priority it must be given above other matters. Again, I thank you for your valuable presence and your contributions to fighting the scourge of terrorism.

Terrorism snipes at the very fabric of the tranquil, prosperous and just societies we seek to build for ourselves and our children. Terror cannot co-exist in the same space as democracy and good governance, just as darkness and light cannot endure in the same room at the same time.

This violent threat seeks to frighten the farmer from his field, children from their schools, women from the marketplace and families from their very homes. It wants the city dweller to cower and businesses to close. It craves despotism and suppression not democracy and enlightened society. Its goal is to cause such havoc that we doubt our democratic principles, putting societies and governments into such confusion and disarray that we begin fighting among ourselves instead of fighting the very thing that seeks our destruction. Already terrorism has taken too many lives and delayed our better future for too long.

While terrorism troubles us greatly at the moment, we do well by remembering terrorism is not of Africa. We must tell this imported evil that wants to bend and break us, that it shall do neither. Instead of making us bow, we shall banish it.

And how do we banish it?  Terrorism’s harm is felt far and wide for the very reason that it has no respect for national boundaries, ethnic bloodlines or religious creeds. We must, therefore, fight this threat together, combining determined national efforts with well-tailored regional and international collaboration.

The fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach. We must address the root causes of extremism, such as  poverty, marginalization, and social injustice. However, this important fact should not become empty rhetoric, devoid of meaning or action.

While we seek to address the root causes of terrorism, we must also attack the roots that feed this evil branch. Evolving from the tactics of yesterday, terrorism is becoming a greater threat as it perfects ways to continuously finance, re-equip and re-supply itself for its sinister mission.

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, health care and food for its people now go to pay for weapons and 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 outside money not African money that fuels the illegal operations. We shall be knocking on this 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. This centre will serve as a hub for intelligence sharing, operational coordination, and capacity building throughout our region.

Additionally, we must strengthen existing counter-terrorism structures such as the Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit (RIFU) 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.

A Regional Standby Force that includes tackling terrorism as part of its mandate 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 the 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 toward 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 improve.

For its part, Nigeria remains firmly committed to fighting terrorism and violent extremism. They are our most urgent national security threat. Our counter-terrorism capabilities have been enhanced through 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 to 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 organisations and build the capacity of our national institutions to effectively address this element of terrorism and violent extremism.

Nigeria is committed to working with our regional partners to strengthen arms control measures, enhance border security, and disrupt the illicit trafficking networks that fuel terrorism and organized crime.

In closing, let me state that we must make this meeting historic and productive.

We must show our respective populations that we, as leaders, we must do more than speak nice words, we must leave here with real results.

As leaders, let us show our people that their safety and welfare is 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 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 is historians who will be meeting to discuss how today became a major turning point in the African continent’s defeat of the terrorist scourge.

Once again, I thank you for honouring my invitation. I urge you to work hard but to also enjoy the hospitality beauty of Abuja, our capital city.

May God bless our endeavours here today.

*Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President and Commander in Chief of the of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria delivered this opening speech at the African High-Level Meeting oOn Counter-Terrorism on 22nd – 23rd April 2024 in Abuja, Nigeria