Nigeria might be forced to reduce its 900-man force in Mali by a hundred following a new ceiling imposed by the United Nations for troops participating in the peace-keeping mission, as well as the pending arrival of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in the country.
This disclosure was made by the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ibrahim Ola Sa’ad, at a session of the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff, which was held in Yamoussoukro, Cote D’Ivoire. Admiral Sa’ad also said that the insurgency in Nigeria led by Boko Haram also necessitated the reduction of the size of the Nigerian force in Mali.
A source said: “Nigeria is leading multilateral arrangements to transform African-led International Support for Mali into United Nations Field Mission.
“The multilateral talks on this matter, which are yet to be finalised, engaged the attention of ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in Yamoussoukro, Cote D’Ivoire where Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ibrahim Ola Sa’ad, led the debate on the conditions set by the United Nations before taking over.
“The stringent conditions include a battalion of 850 troops to be deployed by each contributing nation to which the CDS concurred.
“He, however, said that the correct status and standing of the Nigerian troops put at 900 has surpassed the UN ceiling.
“The permission of President Goodluck Jonathan will be sought to downsize with some logistics reduced to the UN requirements. He said those human capital and logistics will be handy to prosecute the internal security operations.
“The CDS said when the UN eventually takes over the mandate of the field operations of AFISMA, it will be a great relief to Nigeria in terms of funding of the operation in Mali.
Close to half a million Malians have fled the country and another five million displaced since rebels struck in Northern Mali.
The Security Council on December 20, 2012 authorised the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) for an initial period of one year.
The UN Security Council, had based on Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, mandated AFISMA to assist Mali in “recovering the areas in the North under the control of terrorists, extremists and armed groups and in reducing the threat posed by terrorist groups.”
However, on Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon proposed a UN peacekeeping force for Mali.
He also recommended a “parallel” military force which would confront the radical Islamic sect in Northern Mali.
About 11,200 troops may be in the latest peacekeeping, which would cover major towns “assessed to be at highest risk,”
Within the last three months of the engagement in Mali, AFISMA’s Command and Control Structure has changed twice from ECOWAS Mandate to African Union, which stipulated 650 as number of troops per contributing nation.