Nigeria troops will today arrive at a base of the Economic Community of West African States to join Senegalese soldiers to ensure that President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia is ousted from office tomorrow.
Nigerian warship, NNS UNITY, is also heading for the coast of The Gambia to join the operation, the daily newspaper, The Punch has reported.
The PUNCH said it learnt from a top military source in the Nigerian Air Force that the troops would be briefed by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, in the early hours of Wednesday, before leaving for Senegal.
There was no official confirmation for the report as the military had similarly denied a memo ordering the formation of a battalion of 800 soldiers to join military operation in Gambia.
The Defence Headquarters, Abuja, according to the newspaper could not confirm the deployments, adding that it was a matter being coordinated by political leaders.
The Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar, said, “We should not drag the Nigerian military into a political issue. What is happening is a political discussion between the ECOWAS leaders, aimed at solving a political impasse in one of its member states.
“Whatever they agreed to do is what will happen. Therefore, the military is not for any engagement regarding Jammeh or any other person for that matter.”
PUNCH further reported that apart from the NAF and the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Army would also contribute troops, although the number of deployment could not yet be ascertained as of the time of filing this report.
According to a PUNCH source, some of the NAF fighter jets were expected to airlift the troops.
“I can confirm to you that men of the Air Force will leave for Senegal tomorrow (Wednesday). They will be briefed by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at the Kainji base in Niger State.
“That Nigeria is deploying troops is now a certainty after several meetings with The Gambian president yielded no result. The Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS countries came to Abuja on Saturday, where they discussed what components each member state is expected to contribute to the troops that will force Yahya Jammeh out.
“The troops are expected to stay for two weeks and they will be received at a base in Senegal.”
Another military source added, “The NNS Unity is currently sailing off the coast of Ghana, after leaving from Lagos. It is not only Nigeria. Senegal is the host country for the troops, as it would be easy to launch an attack from there.”
Adama Barrow of the opposition party won the December 1, 2016, presidential election in Gambia, but Jammeh, who initially conceded defeat by congratulating Barrow, made a U-turn a week later, saying he would challenge the results.
Despite interventions by the African Union and ECOWAS, Jammeh insisted he would not hand over power to Barrow. On Tuesday, he proclaimed a 90 day state of emergency and had shut all private radio stations.
Adama Barrow himself is staying in Dakar Senegal and has said he would be inaugurated tomorrow in Banjul, the Gambian capital.