President Goodluck Jonathan said Federal Government had approved the disbursement of N1 billion to the military to upgrade detention camps for insurgents across the country.
The President made the disclosure on Saturday in Paris in a late evening interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and France 24 Radio.
NAN said the President granted the interview to the media houses at the close of a two-day summit on peace and security in Africa, hosted by President Francois Hollande of France.
Jonathan said he approved the disbursement of the fund following series of complaints by local and international human rights groups on the conditions of barracks which housed the detention camps.
Specifically, the President said, he was concerned about human rights report on the situation of Giwa barracks in Maiduguri, where some of the suspected Boko Haram detainees were kept.
“They were talking about conditions in the barracks and because of that, not quite long, I released N1 billion to make sure that they expand the facilities in detention camps, particularly the camp in Giwa Barrack in Maiduguri that they complain about.
“The Boko Haram suspects are being detained in a number of places, not only the Giwa barracks.
“So, following complaints that I received about that particular barrack, I called the Chief of Defence Staff to go and use the army engineers to quickly expand and improve the facilities so that people arrested will live under normal human conditions.’’
The President noted that reports of human rights abuses by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) were over-bloated by the media.
He said “most of the reported torture and killings were carried out by members of the Boko Haram group and not the military.
“The issue of human rights abuses is blown out of proportion.
“Whenever there is a major encounter, the Boko Haram group destroys at will and kill at will, some of these destructions being ascribed to the Nigerian Army are actually by the Boko Haram sect.’’
Jonathan said the state of emergency declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states had helped tremendously in curbing the excesses of the Boko Haram.
“Before the emergency rule, even Abuja, which is at the centre of the country was not safe.
“You could recalled how the world became alarmed when the UN building in Abuja was bombed and the Police Headquarters in Abuja and a military market also bombed, as well as a popular newspaper house.
“But with the declaration of the state of emergency, we have been able to get to a point that our challenges are now in Borno and Yobe states.
“Even in Adamawa, the third state that the state of emergency covers, there are no issues in a long while, unlike before where there were repeated issues of killings and bombings
“Though we still have occasional attacks, definitely the emergency rule has helped.’’
The President disclosed that the recent attack by Boko Haram in Maiduguri had confirmed that the group has international backing.
He said the operations of the sect had gone beyond the local militia group which it was hitherto classified as.
“Initially, we felt that they were local and as such some people advocated that because of poverty, these locals carried weapons against the state.
“So, you expect that sophistication will be minimal and you will be able to contain it easily.
“But looking at the caliber of weapons they have, you will find out that they have gone beyond the local expectation.
“For instance, this last attack in Maiduguri, they came with about 15 to 20 Hilux vehicles and each of them was mounted with two to four rocket launchers.
“They were over 100 and some of them were carrying assault rifles and other weapons.
“The question then is that, where do they get the weapons?.
“Definitely, these weapons cannot come from the locals, they are coming from somewhere.’’
President Jonathan said “government is working on available clues to unravel the external supporters of the sect.’’
He appealed to the international community to assist the government in tracing the sources.
“We believe that a lot of assistance is coming from outside the country.
“We have not been able to pin down the sources and that is why we are talking to our friends that we should collectively work together to get the source of their funding.
“A terror in any part of the world is a terror on all of us because terrorists’ attacks can target anybody and anyone can be a victim.’’
Jonathan added that government had not foreclosed the option of dialogue with the sect if that would end the insurgency.
He, however, noted that while government was still open to dialogue, military operations would continue to protect the lives and property of citizens.
He said he was yet to receive a comprehensive report on a French priest that was kidnapped in Northern Cameroon and reported to be taken to Nigeria.
“There is no comprehensive information yet on this. But what we know is that it is quite worrisome that the issue of commercial hostage taking is now a global business.
“Though we got the information, I cannot give any categorical statement.
“However, we know that the tradition of hostage takers is mobility because when they are being tracked, they move.
The 42-year-old Priest, Georges Vandenbeusch, was reportedly kidnapped in the early hours of Thursday near Koza in Northern Cameroon. (NAN)