In spite of the Boko Haram insurgency in the country, Nigerian security agencies now have a fresh challenge to contend with.
The new task, according to the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubike Ihejirika, is the presence of suspected terrorists believed to have been trained by Malian rebels, in Nigeria.
Boko Haram terrorists, like the Malian Islamist rebels, have for years held the Northern part of Nigeria by the jugular, killing and maiming people, especially Christians in their quest to Islamise Nigeria.
Ihejirika however, told journalists at the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre (NAPKC), Jaji, Kaduna State on Thursday, that internal security was being intensified to track them down.
“We are aware that most of the terrorists in this country today were trained in Mali.
“We are also aware that as of yesterday, there was still an influx of some chaps trained in Mali into the country,” he said, shortly after the first batch of Nigerian troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali departed the country (Nigeria).
Ihejirika added that Nigeria and its immediate neighbours were already enhancing their internal security strategies as their troops began participating in the peace-keeping operation in Mali.
He said, “Nigeria will not only be supporting the resolution of the international community, but also enhancing its own security and that of its immediate neighbours by undertaking this operation.
“What we are going into could be described as peace enforcement; that is to bring peace with the use of force. And as to whether the operation will be conventional or insurgent, the troops should have a mixture of both because of the characters of the rebels.”
The COAS assured that the Federal Government had made adequate provision for the welfare of the soldiers, adding that gone were the days when “the welfare of our soldiers was an issue.”
“We have solved this problem (of welfare) some years back by ensuring that every soldier is paid through the bank. So, before soldiers move for a mission, they open accounts in which a certain percentage of their allowances are paid into while they are given some stipends. With this, the issue of welfare will never arise,” he added.
Ihejirika said that the country was embarking on the mission to complement ongoing efforts to ensure peace and stability in the crisis-ravaged Mali and asked the 900 soldiers who underwent a four-week pre-deployment training at the NAPKC to be resolute, dedicated and disciplined.