Nigeria, others may deploy troops against adamant Jammeh
There is apprehension in The Gambia as the Information Ministry yesterday said President Yayah Jammeh would not step down when his mandate ends on January 18, in spite of his electoral defeat.
The autocrat, who ruled the small West African nation for 22 years, will remain in office until the Supreme Court decides on a petition filed by Jammeh. According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Jammeh is challenging the result of the December 1 presidential election. But the President-elect, Adama Barrow reiterated he was planning to take office on January 19, as scheduled.
Observers fear that the refusal of Jammeh to accept the outcome of the election, which is causing delays to the planned handover of power, could lead to violence that will cripple social and economic development of the country.The Gambia’s ‘current dysfunctional’ Supreme Court had adjourned hearing Jammeh’s petition till January 16 since only one of a required minimum of five judges was present.
Experts however believe it will be highly unlikely that four additional judges will be present on Monday because the Supreme Court has not been operational since Jammeh fired several of the judges in mid-2016. All other eligible Court of Appeal judges left the country after the December election.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari will today jet out to Banjul, the capital of The Gambia and thereafter proceed to Bamako, the Malian capital to attend the 27th Africa-France summit holding from January 13 to 14, 2017.
In Banjul, President Buhari, as the mediator in The Gambia, is scheduled to meet with Jammeh and Barrow to continue dialogue on the political impasse in the West African country. Buhari will be joined by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Chairperson of the Authority of 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.
A statement from the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday said 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, President Buhari will 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.
It was learnt yesterday that the Nigerian Army had raised an army battalion that would be deployed in troubled The Gambia to forcefully remove Jammeh from power if he failed to step down on January 19.A report by an online publication, PREMIUM TIMES indicated that
the battalion, christened ECOMOG NIBATT 1, was drawn from the Army’s 19th Battalion based in Okitipupa, Ondo State.
Personnel were also drawn from other formations and units across the country due to shortage of men at 19 Battalion which has a significant chunk of its troops deployed for internal security task force, Operation Delta Safe.
According to the report, the Army Headquarters has instructed the nominated officers and men, put at over 800, to immediately report at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji, for a crashed course on counter-terrorism and counter insurgency.
The Army Headquarters has also instructed the directorates of policy and plans; finance; and logistics to get ready funds, arms, ammunition and other logistics for the operation. The Armoured Corps is also working hard to get ready armoured vehicles needed for the task, the online publication said, quoting official sources.
There were suggestions by some of the sources that the Nigerian Air Force and the Navy might deploy men and equipment for the operation as well.Top military officers said the Nigerian Battalion would be deployed in The Gambia anytime after January 19 if Jammeh makes real his threat not to step down after the expiration of his tenure.
“This is an emergency operation, but we are ready,” one officer said. “The Nigerian Army is a strong, professional fighting force battle ready at anytime. We are so well structured that we can deploy at the touch of a button.
“We did it in Liberia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. And Jammeh should know that we are not a joking force. Once we get it all clear from ECOWAS, the AU and the UN to move in, we can pick him up.”
The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had on December 23 put standby military forces on alert.The ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza, said Senegal, The Gambia’s only territorial neighbour, would lead any military operation in the country. Other West African countries will be mandated to provide troops as well, Mr. De Souza reportedly said.
However, at President Buhari’s meeting with security chiefs at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday on the prevailing insecurity in southern Kaduna, the Niger Delta and other parts of the countr, the Minister of Defence, Mohammed Dan-Ali clarified that no conclusion had been reached on the issue of standby force to be deployed to The Gambia.
He added that the matter of forceful removal of Jammeh would be handled by ECOWAS.Jammeh lost the December 1, 2016 The Gambia presidential election to opposition candidate, Barrow.He initially accepted defeat and congratulated Barrow but changed his mind and decided to challenge the outcome of the election.He also vowed not to hand over to the winner as expected on January 19.