From Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The top security chiefs of the 16 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have expressed concern over the growing state of insecurity across the sub-region, particularly with the influx of weapons and men from Libya.
This was top on the agenda of the 29th meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in Abuja, yesterday where strategies would be adopted on how to tackle specific security issues in the sub-region. The issues highlighted included the security threats along the Cote d’Ivoire-Liberia Border and forth-coming Liberian elections, maritime troubles in the Gulf of Guinea and the spill-over effect of the Libyan crises.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, in his opening remarks, acknowledged the emerging challenges posed by the influx of men and weapon from Libya to the sub-region through the northern parts of Mali and Niger Republic.
Petinrin said: “We are going to look at all specific security challenges we have. We are also aware of all the crises that have happened in Libya, with people leaving Libya to Niger, and have contacted their government. We are fully aware because as these things are unfolding, the Nigerien authority is informing us.
“The instability in Libya and its anticipated spill-over to our sub-region as well as the recent upsurge in acts of terror being experienced in several countries including Nigeria are issues that require urgent attention.”
The CDS, however, noted that member countries, especially Nigeria and Republic of Niger, were cooperating to deal with the spill-over effect of the Libyan crises, which had already found a platform in Boko Haram to cause havoc in Nigeria and ECOWAS.
He said: “It is in the light of the above that this meeting is quite auspicious. I believe we are making progress in the Security Sector Reforms on-going in Guinea Bissau as well as the issue of the ECOWAS Stand-by Force.
Also, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Maj-Gen. Mahamane Toure, said the member countries were concerned about the growing insecurity in both the northern and southern parts of the sub-region, particularly the Libyan connection to it.
Toure further revealed that the CDS of Mali had to suspend his participation of the meeting to attend to outbreak of crises in the Northern part of the country, probably caused by the Col. Muammar Ghadafi’s weapons, returnees and mercenaries’.
He said: “This forum is a meeting of CDS of the 16 member states of ECOWAS to look at the specific security issues with the backing of Heads of States and Governments; to deliberate on the Libyan weapons pouring into Niger, Mali and probably used to destabilise the country.”