Nigerian president to visit Chad, Niger on 1st official trip

AP News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2015 2:39 PM

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's new president will visit Chad and Niger, making the countries whose troops help fight Boko Haram a priority on his first official travels outside the country, an official said Monday.

President Muhammadu Buhari will fly to Niger on Wednesday and Chad on Thursday, spokesman Garba Shehu said.

Chad leads a multinational force of troops, including soldiers from Cameroon, in an offensive that this year has driven Nigeria's home-grown Islamic extremists from towns and villages where it had established "an Islamic caliphate."

Both Chad and Niger have complained of a lack of cooperation from Nigeria, which has strained relations with all its neighbors. Battle-hardened Chadian troops have had to retake some towns from Boko Haram several times because Nigerian troops haven't arrived to secure them.

Buhari was a major general in the army in the 1980s when he drove invading Chadian troops out of Nigeria in an unresolved dispute over an oil-rich border area.

Presidents Idriss Deby of Chad and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger were both at Buhari's inauguration on Friday.

Buhari has said that having foreign troops on Nigerian soil is a "national disgrace" and he is expected to want Nigeria to lead the multinational force approved by the African Union.

The force still awaits a U.N. Security Council resolution on which international funding depends. The previous Nigerian administration had argued that the U.N. intervention shouldn't be based on Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which can require military enforcement, but instead on Chapter 8, which recognizes the role of regional organizations in promoting peace and security.

Buhari, a former military dictator, has promised better cooperation with his neighbors and to crush Boko Haram.

Nigeria's military has said the offensive has cut Boko Haram's supply lines across borders and that the militants' main fighting force is hemmed into a northeastern forest stronghold.

Boko Haram fighters have returned to their old hit-and-run attacks with suicide bombings and occasionally cross-border raids continuing.