(Left: Min. Samukai & Min. Dan Ali; Right: Min. Samukai & CDS Olonisakin) Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, Jr., on Tuesday, February 23, 2016, held separate meetings in Abuja with his Nigerian counterpart, Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali,and General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, the Nigerian Chief of the Defense Staff.
Minister Samukai’s visit took place after the successful state visit of President Ellen Johnson to Nigeria last week to further cement the already cordial ties between the Liberian and Nigerian armies. A dispatch from the Embassy of Liberia in Abuja, says Minister Samukai extended thanks and appreciation to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for its continuous support in restructuring the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and security sector reform in Liberia.
Minister Samukai said the bilateral discussions were important in the context of the pending completion of the drawdown of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in June this year. The Minister expressed his gratitude to his Nigerian counterpart for the several training opportunities the Nigerian army provides to the AFL, and Nigeria’s role for maintaining peace and stability in Liberia and the West African sub-region.
According to the dispatch, he solicited additional support from the Nigerian Armed Forces in the areas of training and bilateral defense cooperation between the two countries. “It is important that we continue our bilateral discussions within the context of the UNMIL drawdown so that our two countries’ strategic interest can continue to be maintained, and to also appreciate the intent of the agreement we signed some years ago”, Minister Samuakai added, referring to anexisting Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on defense and security sector reform between Nigeria and Liberia.
He condemned the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and said Liberia “stands shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria” in the fight against terrorism. In response, the Nigerian Defense Minister pledged Nigeria’s continued support to the Liberian army. He said Nigeria considered Liberia as a key partner, according to the dispatch.
Minister Muhammad Dan-Ali added: “We rely on each other; the relationship is waxing stronger each day. We will continue to support Liberia so that the rank and file and officers of that country will stand anywhere in the world.”
He promised that the existing MoUon defense between Nigeria and Liberia will be updated to meet existing challenges. “We are making the MoU current, and looking at how best the two armed forces will partner in fighting this global menace of terrorism in the eastern part of our country.”
Earlier, the Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff welcomed Minister Samukai at the entrance of the Nigerian Defense Headquarter in Abuja with a quarter military guard of honor. In their subsequent discussion, Minister Samukai expressed gratitude to the Nigerian army and recounted the gallant role of the late Nigerian Commander of the AFL, General Suraj Abdurrahman, in the training of the new AFL that is currently of brigade size. He said the continued support of Nigeria would help Liberia to assume full responsibility for its national security by June.
In response, General Olonisakin assured Minister Samukai that Nigeria and Liberia would continue to partner in order to contribute to the development processes of the two countries and the sub-region in general.
The dispatch adds that General Olonisakin also pledged the Nigerian Armed Forces’ commitment to rendering training support to the AFL in order to ensure collective security to the sub-region and the world at large.
Minister Samukai was accompanied by Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh. His delegation included Colonel A.E. Abubakar, Senior ECOWAS Adviser to the AFL, Mr. Spencer Lecco, Policy Analyst of the Minister of Defense, Major A.Y. Abubakar, ECOWAS Training Adviser to the AFL, and Lieutenant Debbie Cooper, Military Assistant of the Minister of Defense.