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West Africa needs $2.4b to fund standby forceForce, tackle terrorism

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has resolved to form a standby force to tackle terrorism and security threats.

The Commissioner Political Affairs, Peace and Security of ECOWAS, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, stated at the opening of a three-day consultative meeting of Commandants of the three designated ECOWAS Training Centres of Excellence.

The three centres of excellence are the National Defence College, Nigeria, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Ghana, and Ecole de Maintien de la Paix Alioune Blondin Beye, Mali.

The consultative engagement is a bi-annual event coordinated by the Directorate of Peacekeeping and Regional Security of ECOWAS.

It is to support training, capacity building, research and development of the ECOWAS Standby Force, and the general peace and security within the sub-region.

Mali which is housing one of the training centres of excellence was absent at the meeting.

This may not be unconnected with the recent move by the country alongside Niger and Burkina Faso to exit the ECOWAS community.

Musah said that terrorism was cascading across the region and there was need to have counter terrorism forces to contain its spread.

“This is the decision, and in the coming weeks, ECOWAS has already with the Chief of Defence Staffs, developed operational modalities, the concept of operations and everything for us to aggregate.

“It will be something like an advance rapid reaction force of a battalion that will be able to confront terrorists’ bases.”

He explained that as part of the resolution of the authority of Heads of States, 2.4 billion dollars would be raised to fund the ECOWAS standby force to tackle the security challenges headlong.

“The Heads of States have decided that on the first year, we must raise about 2.4 billion dollars to support the operation of this force in order to face the terrorist.”

Musah said out of the amount, the Heads of States have directed member states contribute one billion dollars to commence the operation of the stand-by force.

He also explained that Ministers of Defence and Finance from the sub-region would be meeting to fashion out funding modalities for the force.

“This brings me to why this exercise is so critical today.

“If you look at our region, it is being ravage by terrorists. Today Burkina faso has overtaken Afghanistan as the most terrorised state on earth, and Africa has become home to terrorists organisations.

“Elsewhere in the world there are opportunistic terrorists attacks like we saw in some countries not too long ago.

“We are faced with the nightmare of having one of our member states being completely occupied by terrorist groups.

“If they set up a front base in one country then no country is safe, and we have already seen the impact of that on some of the coastal countries – Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’voir – over the past few years.”

The ECOWAS commissioner, however, said Nigeria has been able to degrade the Boko Haram terrorists.

“In Nigeria, thanks to the efforts of the Nigerian Government, Boko haram have been degraded to the extent that they do not post a sustainable threat to the peace and security of Nigeria.”

Earlier, the Commandant National Defence College, Rear Admiral Olumuyiwa Olotu while welcoming participants to the meeting, said West Africa was the only region that assigned training centres with special mandate.

He, therefore, urged the participants to take advantage of the opportunity to exchange useful ideas to enhance operations against terrorist groups in the region.

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