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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jonathan pledges new defence policy

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PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan on Monday reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to establishing and maintaining “a firm defence posture” to cope with emerging internal and external threats.
The President speaking at a   two-day stakeholders conference on developing a national policy for Nigeria’s participation in international Peace Support Operations (PSOs) at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, dwelt on the focus of his administration towards the military.
He told the gathering that “efforts are ongoing to expand the military force structure to meet up with manpower requirements and promote a transparent high defence management.
He added: “The Services will be re-equipped with modern platforms and other equipment to enhance their operational capabilities. One of our priority areas is the provision of adequate Contingent Own Equipment for our troops involved in Peace Support Operations. I have directed the Minister of Defence to review the procurement process for Peace Support Operations to ensure strict compliance with United Nations (UN) standards.”
The President assured that “Nigeria will continue to play active role in global peace and security initiatives by participating in bilateral and multilateral Peace Support Operations. We shall however ensure that our present and future participations are guided by our national strategic interests in order to attain value for our human and material resources sacrifices.”
Jonathan, therefore, charged the military “to continue to re-address, adopt and develop their professional capabilities in order to retain their relevance and effectiveness in the discharge of their role of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria.”
Also, Minister of Defence, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, stated that though Peace Support Operations have become a veritable tool for projection of Nigeria’s foreign policy, “there is no concrete evidence to show our strategic calculations in the various Peace missions we partake in.   Peace outline and foreign policy apart, Nigeria stands to gain appreciable strategic advantage if we developed appropriate tactics for well-determined goals.”
This situation, he said, necessitated the holding of the stakeholders conference with the theme: ‘Achieving National Foreign Policy Objectives through Peace Support Operations,’ which is aimed at “defining Nigeria’s strategic objectives and calculations in participation in Peace Support Operations, determining value for our human and resource sacrifices, developing framework for attainment of strategic benefits in our participation and most importantly, to develop a policy for our participation in Peace Support Operations.”
He listed drawbacks in Nigeria’s Peace Support Operations to include an untidy procurement process, over reliance on vendors for procurement and dent on national image through sub-standard Contingent Own Equipment.
He prayed the stakeholders to find immediate answers to the pertinent questions, so that the nation could gain fully from the sacrifice of Nigerian military towards world peace.
Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, yesterday called for an urgent articulation of a National Policy on Peace Support Operations (PSOs), including a review of the nation’s selfless disposition to UN operations.
Dike said it is time Nigeria looks at the economic benefits of such operations as “the UN tacitly recognises or accepts that economic benefit ought to accrue to states contributing to PSOs.”
He also canvassed for the establishment of a strategic reserve depot where stocks for PSOs are warehoused for future use.
Stating that the UN “pays handsomely for both personnel and equipment contributed by various countries”, Dike said that Nigeria should strive to broaden the scope of its participation and contribution to PSOs by moving from the ranks of just troop contributor to contributing “logistics support and specialised equipment like aircraft.”
Currently, Nigeria has deployed 5,126 personnel in 12 UN missions.
Present at the event were former President Olusegun Obasanjo; ex- Heads of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and Chief Ernest Shonekan; members of the National Assembly, ministers, Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, Service Chiefs, top military personnel (serving and retired) and diplomats.

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