Don’t Allow US, French Military Bases in Nigeria, Northern Thought Leaders Tell Tinubu

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

Top northern intelligentia have written to President Bola Tinubu, kicking against the relocation of United States and French military bases from the Sahel to Nigeria.
In a letter dated May 3, 2024, and addressed to President Tinubu and the National Assembly leaders, the northern elders urged the federal government to resist such pressures.
The letter stated that the US and France are lobbying Nigeria and other Gulf of Guinea nations for defence agreements to station troops previously in Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Niger Republic.

The northern leaders are worried that Nigeria might agree to this defence pact and jeopardise its defence and security.
They noted that the removal of French and American forces from Niger questions the benefit of foreign military bases.
The letter highlighted that US operations in Sahel have not curbed terrorism, which has grown since the military base was established.
Signatories to the letter include Abubakar Mohammed of the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training (CEDDERT); Kabiru Chafe, former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, from the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP); Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Jibrin Ibrahim of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani) of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CCISLAC); and YZ Ya’u of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD).

Relations between Niger Republic and France became strained after the military coup in the Sahel country.
France had condemned the coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and demanded that constitutional order be returned.
After seizing power, the junta made France’s military exit one of its key demands, a decision that neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, both also former French colonies, took after successful coups.

France, a key security ally with the West African nation, had more than 1,500 troops stationed in Niger to help fight jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State and to prevent further spread of terrorism across the Sahel.
Capitalising on the anti-Western sentiments in the Sahel, Russia began to make fresh inroads into the continent.
After expelling French forces helping in the fight against terrorism, Niger’s military government agreed in January to step up military cooperation with Russia.
In March, the Nigerien junta revoked an accord with the US government that allowed American troops to operate on two of its bases.
Around 1,000 US military personnel were said to be based in Niger.

The US also reportedly agreed to close down its $100million military drone base near Agadez, which was built six years ago and played a key role in the US/France strategy to combat jihadists in West Africa.
The Russian alliance was solidified when military instructors from the country arrived in Niger with the latest equipment and instructors to train the West African nation’s army.
According to the letter addressed to Tinubu, the northern leaders said the US and French governments have allegedly been lobbying Nigeria, and other countries in the region, to sign new defence pacts allowing them to redeploy their expelled troops.
Citing data from the Pentagon, the letter said the operations of the Western forces to uproot terrorists from the Sahel region have so far been “quite unimpressive, if not a complete failure”.

 “This is for the simple reason that terrorism, far from abating, has in fact risen dramatically since the US began its operations in the region,” the letter said.
The leaders also expressed concerns about the economic and environmental impacts of hosting foreign military bases.
“Economically, the presence of these bases could potentially divert government funds and resources away from critical areas such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure development toward maintaining and securing these military installations. “This redirection of resources could stunt economic growth and exacerbate poverty in a country where much of the population already lives under challenging conditions,” they said.

“Moreover, hosting foreign troops often leads to increased prices and living costs in local areas, disproportionately affecting the lower-income population.
“Environmentally, the construction and operation of military bases can lead to significant degradation of the local environment. This includes deforestation, soil erosion, water contamination, and loss of biodiversity, which are detrimental to agricultural communities and indigenous populations. The long-term environmental damage could further hinder economic opportunities and sustainable development,” the letter added.

The letter added that the presence of foreign military bases in Nigeria would worsen already strained relations between Nigeria and the neighbouring French-speaking countries.
The leaders urged the government to consider the broader implications of such agreements and to prioritise Nigeria’s long-term peace and security over short-term strategic alignments.

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