Federal Government says Nigeria is the ultimate target of a terrorist group currently unleashing violence in the northern part of Mali.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Olugbenga Ashiru, stated this on Thursday on the sidelines of the ongoing African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He said, “The events (terrorists’ activities) in Mali, if we don’t quickly stop them, will have effect on the whole of West Africa and Nigeria is their prime target. So, we need to act quickly and forcefully in Mali to stop them, to contain them, to destroy their capability to be able to launch any counter offensive within the sub region.”
Stressing that Nigeria was their target, he said the Federal Government was prepared to do all within its power to stop them.
Unlike in Sierra Leone and Liberia where Nigeria deployed troops to restore democracy, the deployment of troops in Mali, Ashiru said, was to ensure the survival of Nigeria itself.
He said, “When you compare our interventions in Sierra Leone and in Liberia to our intervention in Mali today, the intervention in Mali today is to ensure the survival of Nigeria. The interventions in Sierra Leone and Liberia were to enthrone democracy, rule of law and good order.
“The campaigns in Sierra Leone and Liberia did not have any security impact directly on Nigeria as such. It is just that we wanted peace in the sub region to ensure refugees did not flood to Nigeria. Even with that, they still came to Nigeria because we had lots that still came to Nigeria.
“But for Mali, our intervention is born out of our own national interest, the survival of our own country because terrorists know no boundary. They have no boundary. They move anywhere. Once they are able to cause instability in that area, they move there and the ultimate prize is to destabilise the country.
“So, our intervention in Mali must be seen in that context, that is to ensure the survival of our country, it is to ensure that we contain the terrorists from spreading from Northern Mali to come southwards.”
Appreciating France intervention in the Malian crisis, Ashiru said Africans must now be in charge.
This, he said, was necessary in order to safeguard Mali’s territorial integrity and to stop the terrorists from advancing further.
He promised that the forces would not leave any place for terrorists to operate in West Africa.
Although Nigeria would commit its funds initially into the operation in Mali, the minister said it was in the light of the nation’s security.
He said there would be additional funding from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States since the intervention was not Nigeria’s sole decision.
On the proposed African Standby Force, Ashiru said its establishment was necessary to ensure quick military action in troubled places on the continent.