June 19, 2009

Peace keeping expensive, says minister

By Kingsley Omonobi

ABUJA — Defence  minister, Dr. Shettima Mustapha yesterday told the United Nations under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Mr. Leroy Allen, that Nigeria’s contribution to international peacekeeping was being done at a great cost both internally and externally to its citizens, hence he wants the UN to compensate Nigeria with more command appointments for this sacrifice.

Speaking when the under secretary general visited him in Abuja, the minister said, “We are happy that the UN appreciates Nigeria’s contribution to international peacekeeping going by the fact that we are the fourth largest contributor, but it is coming at a great cost to us. It has quite a burden in the sense that these officers who are trained with taxpayer’s money are not available to the taxpayers.

As at today, we have over 27, 000 of our officers out of the 115, 000 peacekeepers in places like Darfur, Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone and out of 18 different operational areas where this is going on, Nigeria only heads one command which is General Martin Luther Agwai in Darfur and he may leave in three months time or so.

“If we have the fourth largest contribution and there are 18 operations worldwide, we expect to have at least three commands” he said noting, “if tax payers now ask, what our benefits for sending almost all our troops for peacekeeping, we can point to them.

Earlier, Mr. Allen told the minister that he was in the country to thank the government and people for the outstanding contribution to peacekeeping and world peace.

While noting that there are presently 18 operational areas where UN have peacekeepers, he said there was demand for more peacekeepers as a result of new conflict areas springing up, pointing out that Nigeria may still have some roles to play in this regard.

He was accompanied on the visit by the military adviser to the UN secretary general of peacekeeping, Lt. General Isaac Obiakor of Nigeria.