ABUJA Nigeria, west Africa's regional powerhouse, will deploy troops to Guinea-Bissau this week, Defence Minister Bello Haliru Mohammed said on Monday at a meeting of ECOWAS defence chiefs.
"I will like to announce to you that the pledges made by Nigeria for the Guinea-Bissau and Mali mission, we are committed to them and our troops are ready. In Guinea-Bissau, we will deploy before the 18th of this month," he said.
He told newsmen that the Nigerian troops would complement the one battalion of military peace-keepers which the ECOWAS is sending to the West African country.
Mohammed made the declaration after a meeting held between President Goodluck Jonathan and ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff.
"As you know our sub-region is plagued with challenges of insecurity and also instability in some of the countries.
"The CDS (Chiefs of Defence Staff) are here to discuss how the intervention of ECOWAS will help to bring security and to stabilise the country where instability is rearing its head, this is on the instruction of the Head of States of the ECOWAS.
"On Guinea Bissau, a decision is already made that a military contingent from the ECOWAS will be sent to assist the government in maintaining law and order.
"Nigeria, as a leading member of ECOWAS, will participate when invited.
"The ECOWAS is sending one battalion but the contribution of Nigeria depends on when we are invited.
The minister said that ECOWAS was yet to take decision on whether it would send troops to another troubled member state, Mali.
He said that the meeting with the president was on the challenges of insecurity and instability in the two ECOWAS member states.
Speaking in the same vein, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Oluseyi Petinrrin, said the military was prepared for the assignment anytime an invitation was received.
"The decision to send troops will be made by government. Our job is to be prepared so that when they decide to deploy we will be ready.
"And, it is possible they have decided, but have not announced it,'' he said.
Petinrin said that with the intervention of ECOWAS, a lot of progress had been made in resolving the political crises in the two countries.
"Right now, we have constitutional order; the two countries are no longer been headed by military people because they were told in certain terms that it will not be accepted and they have stepped down in both countries.''
Following respective coup d'états in Mali and Guinea Bissau, ECOWAS and other international organisations took steps to restore democratic order in both countries.
ECOWAS imposed sanctions on the respective junta to ensure compliance to its protocols on zero tolerance for military rule.
At the extra-ordinary meeting of ECOWAS in Dakar on May 3, President Jonathan recommended stiffer sanction for the military junta for their failure to accede to the demands of the sub-regional bloc.
Jonathan urged ECOWAS to take stringent decisions in accordance with its avowed commitment to the cause of democracy and constitutionality.(AFP & NAN)