By Alaba Ajibade
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday urged member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin to concede the position of Commander of the multinational joint task force fighting Boko Haram to Nigeria, even as the Commission agreed on a standing force against terrorism.
Buhari also advised member states to honour their financial commitment towards the establishment of the commission’s headquarters, adding that his administration would offset the $100 million pledged by Nigeria towards the task force.
The President spoke at the extra-ordinary session of the heads of state and government of the commission in Abuja, saying he has secured the support of the G7 countries in the renewed effort to combat terrorism in the sub-region.
Buhari’s request for Nigeria’s headship of the LCBC, according to him, was to enable the country to sustain and maintain the Nigeria’s military onslaught against the insurgents.
Under the current arrangement, the headship task force is rotated every six months between the countries, but Buhari on Thursday pleaded for a review of the agreement.
“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 a 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,” he said.
Adding: “Such a process will undermine, even if it 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 excellences consideration that Nigeria retains the position of the force commander of the MNJTF for the period of the war effort.
“This command will be to the effectiveness of military strategy, since Nigeria will be providing the bulk of the troops and the main theatre of the war is on Nigerian soil.
“Our meeting today is premised on common resolve and commitment of member states of Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin to maintain the momentum in degrading the capacity of the insurgents until they are completely defeated.
“It is also going out with urgency to mitigate the suffering which has been imposed on our civilian population by the nefarious activities of the insurgents and the terrorists.
“Our meeting today provides us an excellent opportunity to finalize the instruments of the operations of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in order to give life to our joint military campaign to decisively defeat the insurgents.
“You will recall in my inaugural address on 29th May 2015, I affirmed that I will consult regularly with heads of government of our immediate neighbourhood and I have within four days of my assumption of duty as president embarked on a thank you visits to the Presidents of Niger and Chad. This important assignment was however interrupted because I had to honour the invitation extended to me by the G-7 member states to attend their meeting in Germany.”
Other heads of state at the meeting were Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and Boni Yayi of Benin Republic.
Cameroon was represented by its minister of defence in what may be a cold shoulder for Buhari who did not visit the country’s president, Paul Biya, during his recent tour.
Buhari said he intends to continue his thank you visits to the remaining Lake Chad Basin Commission member states “very shortly”.