Nigeria seeks Niger’s military support against Boko Haram

Updated 22 May 2013

Nigeria seeks Niger’s military support against Boko Haram

NIAMEY: Nigeria has asked neighboring Niger for support in a week-old offensive against insurgent bases in its semi-desert frontier region, underlining moves toward West African cooperation against jihadis seen as a cross-border threat.
Concerns grew particularly after militants associated with Al-Qaeda seized the north of Mali last year and were dislodged only after French-led military intervention.
Nigeria declared a state of emergency in its northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa last week before unleashing forces on well-armed and determined Boko Haram militants. Nigeria claimed some early successes on Monday.

Nurudeen Muhammed, Nigeria’s minister of state for foreign affairs, delivered the request for help from President Goodluck Jonathan to his Nigerien counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou late on Monday in Niamey.
“We currently have military operations under way in Nigeria in three federal states to combat terrorism and we would like to have Niger’s support in the common fight against these terrorists,” Muhammed told Niger state television.
Military sources say Nigerian forces have faced stiff resistance by hardened Islamist rebels entrenched in the north and using cross-border routes to smuggle in weapons.
Nigeria and Niger signed a bilateral defense pact in October 2012 that includes sharing intelligence on militant groups and joint military exercises. The deal stipulates that a request for military aid by one nation cannot be refused by the other.
The two West African nations share a porous frontier of more than 1,500 km (940 miles). The fighting in Nigeria has pushed more than a thousand refugees across the border into Niger in the past few weeks, according to UN estimates.
Soldiers from Niger and neighboring Chad participated with Nigerian forces in a joint assault on Boko Haram fighters last month in Baga, a fishing settlement on the shores of Lake Chad.
Neighbouring countries were alarmed last year when jihadi militants overran vast tracts of Mali’s desert north, imposing a violent form of sharia (Islamic law) and establishing training camps, some of which trained Boko Haram operatives.
A lightning French offensive ousted the Islamists from northern Mali’s towns but rural pockets of insurgents remain. France is now due to hand over to a UN peacekeeping force made up mostly of African troops, the bulk of them Nigerian.
A spokesman for Nigeria’s military denied reports that its offensive against Boko Haram would force Abuja to pull some of its 1,200 troops out of Mali.


UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 4 min 22 sec ago

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.