Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday had appealed to leaders of neighboring Benin Republic, Chad, Niger and Cameroon to let his country head the regional army fighting Boko Harammilitants in the country’s northeast, instead of rotating command of the army among the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC).
Buhari, a retired army general who recently became Nigeria’s president, spoke in Abuja at a meeting of LCBC heads of government, convened to firm up strategies to combat Boko Haram militants who have waged a violent insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast and in parts of Chad, Niger as well as in northern Cameroon.
“While I agree that this is a joint operation with shared responsibilities, I am, however, of the opinion that military operations that are subjected to rapid turnover of command and control structures, six months duration, as it is being proposed in the documents before us, do not augur well for effectiveness and efficiency,” Buhari said at the meeting, attended by Chad’s president Idriss Deby, Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou and Benin’s Thomas Boni Yayi. Cameroon was represented by its chief of defense.
“Such a process will undermine, even if it is not intended, the military capacity to sustain the push against the insurgents, who also have the uncanny ability to adapt and rejig their operational strategies.”
“I am inclined, on account of the above, to suggest for your excellencies’ consideration that Nigeriaretains the position of the Force Commander of the MNJTF [Multinational Joint Task Force] for the period of the war effort,” said Buhari. “This command will be to the effectiveness of military strategy, since Nigeriawill be providing the bulk of the troops and the main theatre of the war is on Nigerian soil.”
Other leaders of the task force did not object to the request – at least not openly at the event.
Buhari said Nigeria will also be honoring its pledge of a $100 million for the military campaign, adding that he had also solicited support from G7 nations at a recently held summit in Germany for the regional counterterrorism measure.
“Nigeria has already pledged the sum of $100 million for the smooth takeoff of the MNJTF. I hereby reassure you that my government will keep faith with this promise,” said the president.
“Our campaign against Boko Haram must be seen within the wider context of the global war against terror. Terrorism has no frontiers and they must, because of the great implication for regional and global peace and security, be defeated.”
Thursday’s meeting comes a day after military chiefs from the LCBC nations met in the Nigerian capital Abuja to draw up strategies for the take up of the reinvigorated regional military alliance, of which the existence dates back to the 1990s.
Nigeria battles a six-year insurgency in its northeast where tens of thousands of have been killed and millions displaced within and outside the country.
The Boko Haram militants, who have since pledged alliance with Daesh and now wish to be called Islamic State in West Africa Province, or ISWAP, are known to have conducted cross border attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
This necessitated a regional alliance that helped to push back the militants from most of the Nigerian border territories they had captured in 2014 and early 2015.
Although the Nigerian army said it had inflicted a severe blow to the group, its fighters have continued to stage several brutal attacks in parts of the northeast over the past two weeks, killing dozens of people, mostly civilians.
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