Bamako — Nigeria may be closer to rounding off deployment of its troops to Mali for the ongoing military operation in northern part of the country with the arrival yesterday of additional 250 soldiers along with large consignment of military equipment on board a chartered Max Air Boeing 747 plane.
The plane, said to have taken off from Sultan Abubakar Sadiq International Airport Sokoto in the morning, landed at Bamako Airport in the afternoon yesterday; and no sooner had the soldiers alighted from the aircraft than they were conveyed to Banamba area of Koulikoro region in a convoy of military vehicles.
Head of the African-led Mission in Support of Mali Major General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir confirmed arrival of the Nigerian troops but could not tell the exact number of soldiers on board the aircraft.
Banamba, located about 120 kilometres from Bamako, is the designated area of operation for all Nigerian troops since the start of the military mission. They are there strategically to guard the porous borders between Mali and Mauritania in line with mission's concept of operation by strictly monitoring movement of persons and goods through the two countries.
Though Nigerian military authorities in Mali could not say exactly the actual number of the soldiers brought in from Nigeria, Daily Trust learnt that additional 250 troops arrived in Mali yesterday with much military equipment aboard a charted plane at the expense of the federal ministry of defence.
Daily Trust was told that this was the first time the Nigerian troops were brought to Mali in such a big aircraft since the military deployment began on January 17 as all other Nigerian soldiers earlier deployed were flown by C 130 military plane in 18 flights.
Nigeria is expected to send in 1200 troops for the military operation. By Monday last week, according to military sources, there were 481 Nigerian soldiers already in Mali for the support mission, and with deployment of another batch of more than 100 soldiers last Tuesday the number steadily rose to nearly 600.
This is besides the 300 air force men already stationed in Niger Republic which is said to be closer to the war zone than from Banamba in Mali. So with yesterday's deployment of additional 250 troops, Nigeria may have inched closer to its target troops for the Mali military mission.
Head of the African-led Mission in Support of Mali Major General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir, who confirmed arrival of the Nigerian troops, told Daily Trust in Banamba yesterday that Nigeria is doing its best in support of the mission and so the effort should be appreciated.
General Abdulkadir, could not disclose the total number of soldiers so far deployed from Nigeria when asked by Daily Trust, but denied that deployment of the Nigerian troops has been rounded off with yesterday's arrival of additional troops. He said the exercise is still ongoing.
He said Nigeria's C 130 military plane brought in a good number of Nigerian troops with other military equipment in 18 flights, saying the military plane will still be used for movement of soldiers and other logistics.
Asked to comment on how Nigerian troops could operate in a hostile zone without armoured vehicles, General Abdulkadir said Nigeria will equally bring in armoured vehicles for its troops and the process of moving such military vehicles should be gradual since nobody will assist the country in terms of logistics. Nigeria, according to him, is yet to ask the international community for logistics support in this regard as it is still doing its best, saying however that there is nothing wrong in seeking for international support in such operation. He said it is a normal thing the world over.
"At least we have to do our best first before seeking for any logistic support. There is nothing wrong in seeking for assistance, anyway. You see, we are not doing badly in the first place; and our effort should be appreciated by all", he said.
General Abdulkadir said Nigerian troops need home support and encouragement to make Nigeria proud anywhere, saying the Nigerian media should not to do any report that will dent the image the country and its people as it is not the case even in the developed nations.
Daily Trust reported on Friday, quoting officials, that the Nigerian troops deployed to Mali for the military operation going on may be there for at least three years given the possibility that the Ansar Dine fighters will resort to guerrilla tactics.