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By NBF News
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The Federal Government (FG) yesterday said it had approved the deployment of troops to Guinea Bissau, following the breach of democratic governance and constitutional order in that country. It was however, not yet decided on whether or not to send troops in Mali .

Defence Minister, Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed, who made the disclosure at the opening of the 30th ordinary meeting of Committee of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff in Abuja, explained that the action was in line with its pledge to the ECOWAS on the crisis in Guinea Bissau and the Republic of Mali, adding that the situation in those countries portends serious danger to the country.

Mohammed, who stated that the troops were due to depart the country on Friday for Guinea Bissau, however, said it was awaiting the request from the Republic of Mali to the ECOWAS Commission before it would deploy troops to that country to restore order.

According to the defence Minister, 'it is clear that regional instability caused by internal conflicts in some member-states is a severe impediment to achieving the desired political and economic development in our sub-region. The developments in the Republic of Mali and Guinea Bissau are giving cause for concern about the long-term survival of democracy in the ECOWAS sub-region.

'A part from this, the situation in Mali, especially the rebellion in the Northern part of the country, portends grave danger to our sub-region due to the assemblage of disparate armed groups whose reach extends far beyond the sub-region. If not decisively tackled, the development is capable of destabilizing the entire region', he said.

In view of this, the minister said the military authorities in the member-states must not relent in their efforts to ensure that the threats in these areas were decisively dealt with in order to provide a secured environment for the collective development of the sub-region. He stressed that the Federal Government was very committed to the promotion of all means of socio-economic and political development of the ECOWAS sub-region as envisaged in the ECOWAS charter.

'Nigeria remains committed towards strengthening our collective operative mechanism on the way to overcoming the challenges facing the sub-region', he said.

Earlier in his address, Nigeria's Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petirin, pointed out that the situation in Mali and Ginea Bissau, had given a cause for serious concern in the military's role in the defence of democratic governance and constitutional order in the sub-region.

He told his counterparts in the sub-region that, 'it is essential that we support fully, our Heads of States' 'zero tolerance' policy against unconstitutional takeover of government in any part of the ECOWAS sub-region.'

The Defence Minister, Haliru Mohammed and the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin confirmed Federal Government deployment of troops in a chat with State House correspondents yesterday.

President Goodluck Jonathan has however urged West African Defence Chiefs to ensure that peace and security are sustained in the sub-region.

The President played host to the Chiefs of Defence Staff in West Africa who are in Abuja for their 30th Ordinary Meeting, who paid him a courtesy visit at the State House.

Jonathan stressed that the strength of any nation depends on the might of its military and 'security is very vital to the integrity of nations.'

The President who commended the defence chiefs for their role in ensuring the current relative stability in the sub-region enjoined them not to relent.

'Though there are challenges in some areas, the stability of countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region is commendable. We have progressed significantly compared with what we had 20 years ago,' he said, adding that 'we have to continue to ensure peace, security and stability.'

President Jonathan who noted that the whole sub-region has embraced democratic governance, expressed appreciation to the military chiefs for joining hands with civilian authorities to address the challenges in a few countries in West Africa such as Mali and Guinea Bissau.

He implored the defence chiefs to talk to their colleagues in these countries 'to embrace democratic governance.'

The President expressed optimism that with the support and cooperation of the defence chiefs, 'we would collectively resolve the issues in Guinea Bissau and Mali.'

The President pledged the continued support of the Nigerian Government to enable the military leaders to succeed, hoping that at the end of their meeting, they would have come up with resolutions that would further guarantee peace and stability in the West African sub-region.

Defence Minister Mohammed led the delegation of Defence Chiefs on the courtesy visit.