Again, Buhari to Travel to Gambia to Persuade Jammeh to Step Down

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President orders army to commence security exercise in Southern Kaduna House wants Nigeria to offer asylum to Gambian president

Tobi Soniyi, Damilola Oyedele and Paul Obi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, and Bamako, the Malian capital from today, January 13 to 14, 2017.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, who announced this yesterday via a statement said while in Banjul, Buhari, as the Mediator in The Gambia, would meet with President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia and the President-elect, Adama Barrow, to continue dialogue on the political situation in the West African country.

The statement said Buhari would be joined by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Chairperson of the Authority of Economic Community Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government, President Ernest Koroma of Sierra Leone, and the immediate past President of Ghana, John Mahama, who is the co-meditator of The Gambian mission.

Adesina said Buhari would travel to Bamako later on January 13 to participate in the 27th Africa–France Summit.
The summit for Partnership, Peace and Emergence convened by French President Francois Hollande is aimed at strengthening cooperation between France and African countries in the areas of peace and security, economic partnership and development.

Recognising the role played by France in the successes so far recorded in the implementation of the regional initiative against terrorism, Adesina said Buhari would reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to global efforts on the war against terror and underline the need for improved collaboration to address the menace of terrorism in the region.

He said Buhari would use the opportunity of the summit to underscore the efforts government was making to improve Nigeria’s business environment to attract more foreign direct investment.

Adesina said the president would be accompanied by Governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defence.

Meanwhile, ahead of the ECOWAS mediation meeting today with President Buhari, the House of Representatives yesterday urged president to provide an offer of asylum in Nigeria to President Jammeh as a way to boost mediation into the current presidential conundrum threatening to cause unrest in the coastal committee.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon. Sani Zorro (Jigawa APC) who said such open offer would strengthen the hands of the mediators.

“Grant him asylum, and his family, if that would restore peace to The Gambia, if that is what it would take, then Nigeria should be ready for it,” Zorro said.
The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nnenna Elendu Ukeje, said the motion is in line with Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives.

Nigeria would be required to intervene and solve whatever problems arise from the impasses, Ukeje said, adding that creating a soft landing through asylum, may provide an alternative.
“If it comes to this, so that The Gambia does not degenerate into another unstable African country,” she said.
Some lawmakers opposed the motion on grounds that the offer would send a wrong signal to dictators with sit-tight syndrome.

The Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, however urged such lawmakers to critically examine their position, noting that the offer of asylum to Jammeh does not indicate support for dictatorship.
“If it is put before him and he rejects it, fine, but it will clear that the people of Nigeria, through the parliament offered such.”

“If crises erupts in that country and refugees spill over, can we handle it while also dealing with our IDPs? If it comes to confrontation, Nigeria will be required to put boots on the ground. Can we afford that? Our military is already engaged in the North-east, in the Niger Delta and now in Southern Kaduna. So let us be guided,” Dogara advised.

Hon. Sam Onuigbu (Abia PDP) said the offer is a cheaper and safer option, as Nigerians are well invested in Gambia.
“We did a similar thing in Liberia, and today Liberia is being celebrated as a growing democracy. We all know if there is trouble, Nigeria would be required to intervene,” he said.

The Minister for Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, has said there is no decision yet on whether Nigeria will deploy forces to The Gambia should President Jammeh refuses to step down on January 19 when his mandate would have expired.
Dan-Ali made this disclosure yesterday while briefing State House Correspondents after a lengthy security meeting he and service chiefs had with the president at the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.

The minister said that the meeting deliberated on the security situation in the country.
He said: “Major security issue were discussed and we were able to come to conclusion on almost all the crises that are going on across the country. The Southern Kaduna, the Niger Delta issues and other major crisis areas were discussed and resolutions were passed.

“Like I said, in the Southern Kaduna, we have our troops being moved and they have already taken places, operation is going on and I believe that very soon it will come to an end.”

Asked whether the meeting discussed The Gambia issue, the minister said “That is not a national issue and I believe the ECOWAS are working on that, we have not reached any conclusion on that.”

Also speaking, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. Tukur Buratai, said the president had ordered the commencement of an army exercise code-named ‘Kunama II’ in Southern Kaduna in order to bolster the security situation in that axis.

Buratai explained that the exercise would cover parts of Plateau and Kano States.
He added that the army was still pursuing all its operations in the North-east, South-south and South-eastern parts of the country.

Asked about the progress report from Sambisa, Buratai said: “We are continuing our operations in that area, Lafiya Dole mandate and the troops are still moving all over the area.”

On whether he had received any new directive from the president, the COAS said.
On deployment of troops to Kaduna, he said “Our troops are already in Southern Kaduna. We have our special forces operating there along with all other security agencies and we intend also to have an exercise very soon in Southern Kaduna to cover some parts of Plateau and indeed part of Kano State.

Also, in a move to douse tension, the Nigerian Army, has said it was not planning to attack any foreign country, neither the Republic of Gambia, where President Buhari is expected in the West African nation today.
The clarification came amid speculations of a possible military intervention by ECOWAS to be spearheaded by Nigeria should the outgoing President Jammeh failed to relinquish power after losing in last year presidential polls.

According to Director of Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sani Usman, there was no iota of truth in such statement.
He said: The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to a publication by online news organisation’ indicating the readiness of Nigerian Army to attack Gambia with the intention “to remove Jammeh.”

Usman added: “This is not true. Consequently, Nigerian Army wishes to disassociate itself from such false information that exists only in the figment of the imagination of the medium. There was no time or place Nigerian Army disclosed such information to the medium.

“If there is any, we challenge them to name the officer or soldier that gave them such information and when. For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerian Army is not planning to attack any country.
“It should be noted that such reckless and unprofessional conduct is not expected of any reputable and responsible news medium as it is inimical to national security.”

Usman further stated: “The publication apart from being false in its entirety, it is unethical and capable of endangering the lives of Nigerians in diaspora.
“The medium is please requested to always clarify such matters affecting national security and diplomatic issues that may endanger the safety and security of Nigerians abroad to avoid such misleading and embarrassing publication,” he maintained.