Nigeria has made “impressive” military gains against Boko Haram, French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday, while adding that the Islamist terrorist group still poses a great threat to West Africa’s biggest economy.
Hollande spoke after bilateral talks with Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari on the sidelines of a regional anti-terrorism summit in the capital, Abuja.
Hollande and Buhari signed a "letter of intent" to intensify military cooperation to fight Boko Haram.
The two leaders also signed several accords through France's main development agency, including 120 million dollars pledged to bolster Nigeria’s strained electricity sector.
The British government promised to support Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram with almost 58 million dollars (40 million pounds) over the next four years. The money will be used, among other things, to train 1,000 Nigerian soldiers in counter-insurgency tactics.
The presidents of neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, whose countries are also affected by terrorism, also attend the summit, together with representatives from the European Union, the United States, Britain and the communities of West African and Central African states.
The West African states are expected to discuss the formation of a new regional military force with troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger as well as Benin.
It is the second regional Boko Haram summit after France hosted the first such conference a year ago in Paris.
Boko Haram poses a steady threat to communities in the north-east of Nigeria and has also launched offensives in neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The group's goal is to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law, known as sharia.
Since 2009, at least 14,000 people have died at the hands of the Sunni fundamentalists in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The United Nations estimates that the group has driven around 2.7 million people in the region from their homes.