The Defence Headquarters has disclosed that Nigeria has so far deployed about 500 military personnel in the ongoing African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) with more troops expected to deployed as at when due.
This was disclosed yesterday in a statement signed by the Director of Defence Information (DDI), Col Mohammed Yerima, where he also explained the state of Nigerian troops as regards the crisis in Mali.
Yerima also disclosed that about 140 Nigeria Police personnel were already on standby to be deployed in support of the military operations.
He gave details of various military units and base stations in Mali, including the company strength of 138 men in the city of Banamba, 17 military personnel manning the AFISMA Headquarters in Bamako, 24 personnel, who are currently stationed at the transit camp, Signal Squadron of 61 personnel, and 300 from the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), which is stationed in Niamey Niger Republic.
He said: "The Defence Headquarters wishes to inform the Nigerian media of the current deployment status of Nigerian contingent to the current African Led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).
"Currently there is a Company strength of 138 men (all ranks) stationed in the city of Banamba Mali. The AFISMA Headquarters in Bamako is manned by 17 Nigerian personnel. 24 personnel are currently stationed at the transit camp. A Signal Squadron of 61 personnel are currently deployed. "The Nigerian Air Force which is stationed in Niamey Niger Republic has a total strength of 300 personnel. As at present the Nigerian Armed Forces has deployed over 500 officers and men to the AFISMA operation", he added.
The Federal Government approved the deployment of about 776 battalion to Mali, which was later increased by President Goodluck Jonathan by 1,200 military personnel.
Yerima, however, explained that as was disclosed before, a company of soldiers would be deployed first with more soldiers who are currently undergoing training at Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre, Jaji, Kaduna State are expected join later on when the need arises.
"The remaining troops and equipment will be deployed in due course. Also expected to deploy is a contingent of 140 Nigeria Police personnel who are already on standby," he noted.
Already, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim, while speaking during the visit of his United Kingdom counterpart, General David Richards, disclosed that Nigerian troops would play the crucial role of mop-up operations and stabilising the country after the French forces leaves or completes their operations.
Ibrahim noted that even though the Africa-led intervention force in Mali was having an upper hand over the Islamic terrorists, he, however, foresees a situation where the Nigerian troops could be there for one year in other to monitor the post-Mali crisis because of her leadership responsibility in the sub-region.
He said: "At the risk of saying the obvious, the sub-region looks up to us for leadership and we want to provide that. Whereas over the last week or so, we have seen activities in the war in Mali; people like you and other experts in management of this kind of things know that the job has just started.
"And when the French troops eventually disengages from the crisis, the only country that maybe left standing us Nigeria, we understand that very much and I have to thank you for identifying with us even in the future."