President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday ordered the deployment of a Battalion of Nigerian soldiers to Mali as part of the country's contribution to the ECOWAS security force to reclaim the country from Islamist terrorists.
Briefing the Defence Correspondents at the Defence Headquarters, the Director of Defence Information, Col. Mohammed M. Yerima, said a company made of 190 troops would depart for Mali within the next 24 hours while the rest would follow.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen. Azubike Ihejirika, disclosed that Nigeria was interested in Mali because the country was a training ground for terrorists.
"The degenerating crisis in the Republic of Mali compelled the decision of ECOWAS Heads of Government to intervene with a deployment of their military forces. Following this decision and in line with Nigeria's acclaimed peacekeeping roles, and in spirit of African brotherhood, President Goodluck Jonathan approved the deployment of a battalion and in the next 24 hours, company of the battalion  will be deployed. The remainder would be deployed later.
"Already, the Force Commander, Major General S U Abdulkadir, is on ground in Mali. Also, technical team of the Nigerian Army and Air Force are already in Mali to facilitate the eventual full deployment of Fighter Aircraft and support element," Yerima stated.
At the instance of Malian government, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2085 of December 2012 approved the deployment of ECOWAS Security Force to assist Mali in reclaiming its north from the Islamic militants.
Speaking with newsmen at the wreath laying ceremony of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration, Lt Gen. Ihejirika said the insecurity in Mali was a threat to Nigeria since the country was notorious for being a training ground for the terrorists wreaking havoc in some states of the federation.
According to him, the military is ready to carry out the order of President Jonathan to ensure peace and stability is restored.
"The security of Mali affects security of Nigeria because of the proximity of Mali to Nigeria. It is an operation that is very dear to Nigeria. Furthermore, as you are aware, Mali has been one of the training bases where the terrorists operating in Nigeria have been trained, so it is important that Mali is kept safe, including Niger which is the immediate neighbor," he noted.
The French troops all night bombed the terrorists' enclave at Diabaly while the French authorities are seeking the help of Mali's Arab neighbours in resolving the matter which has the backing of the United Nations Security Council.