Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Senate Approves 1,200 Soldiers for Mali

The Senate yesterday approved the request of President Goodluck Jonathan for the deployment of 1,200 soldiers to Mali. The approval was given after a one-hour closed door session over Jonathan's letter on troops deployment.

Jonathan, in his letter, had expressed concern that given the Nigeria's proximity to the Sahel region, the crisis in Mali, if not brought under control, might spill over to Nigeria and other West African nations with negative consequences.

"As a responsible member of the international community and given our recent experiences with insurgency and terrorist activities, especially in the northern parts of the country, I felt compelled to urgently approve the deployment of Nigerian troops," he said.

Senate President David Mark (PDP, Benue South) said feared that Nigeria might not be able to contain the consequences of not intervening in the Mali's crisis.

Mark said: "Nigeria is not just a big brother in ECOWAS; we're actually a big brother in the whole of Africa. And whatever happens in any part of Africa, we'll definitely be concerned."

However, the House of Representatives yesterday asked Jonathan to transmit a letter seeking its approval of the deployment of Nigerian troops to Mali. Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila (ACN, Lagos) raised a point of order under matters of public importance on the non approval of National Assembly before Jonathan sent troops to Mali. However, Rep. John Edeh countered him, citing Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution which states that only the Senate approval is required.

Ruling on the motion, Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said that Gbajabiamila's motion should be seen as a "wake-up call for the government to act accordingly."

Meanwhile, President Jonathan will travel to Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire today for an Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government ahead of the full deployment of the community's troops to Mali.

A statement by presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said Jonathan will be accompanied to the meeting by the Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, and the Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim. The President is due back in Abuja on Saturday.

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