By: Kingsley Omonobi
Abuja – Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin has called for intensification of intelligence gathering, joint and combined operations in order to combat the security threats currently plaguing the ECOWAS region.
General Olonisakin who assumed leadership of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff on Wednesday at the ongoing 39th ordinary meeting in Abuja said collective efforts by each member state as well as collaboration with other stakeholders and partners in the pursuit of collective security and economic development will ensure peace and stability in the region through the platform provided by ECOWAS.
Listing the threats ranging from insurgency, terrorism to piracy, human and drugs trafficking, oil theft and other vices at sea, he said these security threats have been exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms, and light weapons occasioned by the numerous porous borders within the sub-region.
General Olonisakin disclosed that the acquisition of these weapons has emboldened the criminal elements in their nefarious activities.
“The growing trend of local terrorist organizations affiliated with and receiving support from well known international terrorist organizations has also become very worrisome. This trend portends grave danger to our collective security. It is a matter of concern that terrorism and violent extremism have continued to threaten the peace and security of our sub-region. These security threats have been exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms, and light weapons occasioned by the numerous porous borders within the sub-region. This threat calls for collective action on the path of each member state as well as collaboration with other stakeholders and partners. In this regard we need to intensify intelligence gathering, joint and combined operations to combat this menace. It is hoped that through this frequent interaction of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff and our political leaders, our collective efforts at ensuring peace and stability in our region will be fruitful,” he added.
While emphasizing the need for more frequent interaction among the Committeeof Chiefs of DefenceStaff, he described the ongoing meeting as “another ray of opportunity to interact and avail ourselves the information and collaboration needed to better the cause of ECOWAS region.”
He expressed appreciation to Presidents and Commanders-in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the various countries in the sub-region for their unwavering commitments to ensuring that their various Armed Forces are provided with the wherewithal to execute regional responsibilities despite other competing demands.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Defence (Nigeria), Mrs Nuratu Batagarawa called for more training for the troops to enhance their operational capability.
She congratulated General Olonisakin on his new appointment and promised the support of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the smooth conduct of the Command Post Exercise by the ECOWAS Standby Force scheduled to hold in Nigeria later in the year.
The Permanent Secretary who was also the Special Guest of Honour at the meeting enjoined the ECOWAS Standby Force to continue to support, cooperate and collaborate with the Nigerian military in the fight against terrorism and other vices facing the nation and the sub-region.
Also speaking at the event, the immediate past Chairman of the Committee represented by the Deputy CDS of Togo, Brigadier General Adjitowou Colman thanked Nigeria for the support, hospitality and other efforts in helping to secure the sub-region.
Enumerating some of the achievements of the committee, he mentioned strides made in Liberia, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali among other countries within the sub-region saying “we are laying the foundation for our Standby Force to be able to have a better reaction in the event of security challenges.”
He asked for measures that will tame the terrorists hampering development in the region.
The Togolese military chief also called for field visits, exercises, more solidarity, joint actions and other efforts to monitor and evaluate the readiness of the troops. These he said will create stability in the region and resist the forces of evil from spreading.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Brigadier General Francis Benhazin while also speaking at the event enumerated some efforts made by the commission in containing the crises that could have brewed from disagreements after local elections in some countries of the sub-region.
A statement by Col Onyema Nwachujwu said the meeting will evaluate the security threats in the ECOWAS sub-region and the surrounding nations while reinforcing multilateral cooperation among member states.