Foreign military base claim: Coalition accuses Northern elite of instigating crisis

A coalition of 259 anti-corruption, civil society and human rights groups, Coalition for Transparency and Economic Reforms (COTER) has accused a group of Northern elite who raised the alarm of a plan by the federal government to allow the relocation of United States of America and French military bases in Francophone West African countries to Nigeria, of attempt to instigate crisis in the country. 

COTER alleged that the Northern elite group cried out over the alleged plan by the President Bola Tinubu-led administration with a view to causing disaffection between the government and the Nigerian populace.

COTER’s President, Dr Peter China Chukwu and General Secretary, Mallam Auta Ibrahim Koko, stated this on behalf of the Coalition in a statement in reaction to the Northern elite group letter to President Tinubu on the matter.

According to the Coalition, the Northern elites have only cried wolf where none exists with a view to heightening the tempo of domestic opposition and animosity to the current administration. 

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris had on Monday clarified that the Federal Government was not considering request from any country to establish a military base in Nigeria.

The Minister had dismissed as unfounded reports that the government was considering a request for the citing of a military base in Nigeria, stressing that the Federal Government “is not in any such discussion with any foreign country.”

The clarification by the Minister followed a letter written by some Northern  elites to President Tinubu warning him against hosting United States and French military bases in Nigeria.

The letter dated May 3, 2024, had stated that the US and France are lobbying Nigeria and other Gulf of Guinea countries for defence agreements to relocate their troops previously in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic.

The Northern elites had also expressed worries that the President Tinubu-led administration might agree to the defence pact and jeopardise Nigeria’s defence and security. 

The Northern elite group’s letter also copied the National Assembly, was signed by Abubakar Mohammed of the Centre for Democratic Development, Research and Training (CEDDERT); Kabiru Chafe, former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, from the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP); Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Jibrin Ibrahim of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Auwal Musa (Rafsanjani) of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CCISLAC); and YZ Ya’u of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD).

COTER however described the alarm raised by the Northern elites in their letter to President Tinubu and the National Assembly as lacking any iota of truth.

COTER argued that such an alarm was capable of causing panic amongst the citizenry with the people in some of the already volatile regions taking to the streets in protest, thereby giving room for a crisis that may explode and engulf the entire country. 

The Coalition wondered why some Northern elites in 2024 would want to re-awaken the issue decided against by the Nigerian government since the early 1960s, when the matter of a military pact with the British government came up.

COTER stated that the President Tinubu-led administration knew more than enough about the primary objectives of Nigeria’s foreign and defence policies to accede to any request by any foreign power to site a military base in Nigeria. 

It added that Nigeria’s membership of the Non-aligned Movement and the BRICS countries precluded the country from offering its territory to any foreign power to establish a military base.

COTER said, “The false alarm raised by some Northern leaders over alleged plans by the Federal Government to accede to the request by the United States of America and France to relocate their military bases in Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to Nigeria, raises some concerns about the intention of these letter writers. 

“It is clear that their intention is to cause disaffection between the Federal Government and citizens of Nigeria. They are only trying to explore the religious sensitivity of some sections of the country to instigate crisis. This is very dangerous for the country as this may result in a conflagration that may engulf and even consume the entire country. 

“Nigeria’s stance and policy on this matter is very clear and unambiguous. It’s the country’s foreign and defence policies not to enter into any military pact with any foreign power. Previous governments and the current administration of President Bola Tinubu have abided and operated by these policies, even since the early 1960s. 

“The raising of  such an alarm by some people in 2024 because of their privileged positions is suspect. There is a hidden agenda by this group of people, which is not known to the rest of the citizens of Nigeria. 

“COTER, therefore, urges this privileged and respected Nigerians not to fan any ember of discord in the country by their statement. They should exercise serious restraints and caution in their utterances and outbursts in order not to inflame the already tense situation Nigerians are currently in. Our focus should be on how to collectively lift Nigeria, our dear country, to an enviable pedestal in the comity of nations in the world.”