By Kingsley Nwezeh
The Military High Command declared yesterday that the agreement binding member-states of the Lake Chad Basin that formed the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) did not allow for unilateral withdrawal of troops.
It restated its earlier position that no Nigerian territory in the North-east and Lake Chad Basin was unmanned.
This comes as it said minimum force would be employed to enforce the presidential directive to restrict movement in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic even as it warned criminals against taking advantage of the lockdown to perpetrate crime.
Republic of Chad, one of the coalition partners in MNJTF had issued an April 22 deadline to Nigeria and Niger Republic to occupy territories of those countries liberated by Chadian troops.
President of Chad, Idris Deby, said he had warned those countries that his forces would move out of bases seized there from the jihadists by April 22, regardless of whether their armed forces moved in or not.
Speaking in an interview, President of Chad Idris Derby, said his troops deployed to fight jihadists in the Lake Chad region and the Sahel, would no longer take part in military operations outside national borders.
“Our troops have died for Lake Chad and the Sahel. From today, no Chadian soldiers will take part in a military mission outside Chad,” he told national TV in Arabic. His remarks were broadcast in French last week.
But speaking at a briefing in Abuja, Coordinator, Directorate of Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said the agreement binding MNJTF member-countries did not allow for unilateral withdrawal of troops from the theatre of war.
“We are all stakeholders. Are they (Chad) holding our territory? Demographically, they are not holding any part of our territory.
“What champion are you for pushing an enemy out of your own territory?,” he queried.
Enenche reaffirmed that “they are not holding any part of our territory. There is an agreement and they cannot withdraw. I assure Nigerians that not one each of our territory can be taken over by anybody.
“Those who are talking do not know how our boundaries are structured. MNJTF is working well all towards ridding Lake Chad of Boko Haram and ISWAP.”
Responding to a question on the arrest and trial of 58 terrorists by Chad in contradiction with Nigeria’s policy of amnesty for repentant terrorists, Enenche said it was dependent on the policies of each country even as he queried Chad’s claim that it killed 1,000 insurgents.
“Will Chad ask us how to manage our internal security? If they don’t know how to go about amnesty, they should ask. They said they killed 1,000 insurgents. Did we see their corpses.
“If they arrested such number, why didn’t they fire them. There’s a conversation that if your enemy surrenders, you take him as prisoner of war. It’s an international convention,” he said.
On the lockdown imposed by the federal government to curb the Coronavirus pandemic, the Coordinator of DDMO said the military would employ minimum force to ensure compliance.
He said its role remained in support of civil authority when called upon to do so.
He said the oxygen produced by the military to aid the management of COVID-19 cases was handed over to the presidential task force on COVID-19.
“At this juncture, I must state clearly that the Armed Forces of Nigeria is to provide the minimum necessary force to support the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, to checkmate the nefarious activities of criminals wanting to take advantage of patriotic and loyal citizens, who are observing the lockdown directive.
“Consequently, all criminally minded individuals are hereby warned to desist from disturbing the peace of other citizens of the country. Otherwise, they will be tackled appropriately in line with the principles of internal security operations and rules of engagement, in order to ensure the security of lives and property of peace loving Nigerians,” he said.
On economic sabotage, he said the military in a bid to protect the economic assets of the country, recovered 65,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 943.5 barrels of suspected stolen crude from oil thieves.
“Additionally, crude oil thieves were denied stealing of about 408,000ltrs of illegally refined AGO, 2,232.4 barrels of stolen crude oil and 29,000ltrs of DPK,” it said.