WASHINGTON has rejected Nigeria’s proposals to relocate its Africa Command (Africom) from its current base in Germany to a part of the African continent despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
Last month, President Muhammadu Buhari asked the US government to consider relocating Africom to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries as they struggle to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security issues. Africom is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa and during a virtual meeting with the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on April 27, President Buhari said it would helpful to have the unit nearby.
President Buhari said: “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region. Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges. In this connection and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating the Africom headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the theatre of operation.”
However, according to the United States Department of Defence, known as the Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating Africom from Germany to Africa is huge. In an emailed response, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the US government would not consider relocating Africom at the moment.
Pentagon spokesperson Cindi King, said: “It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters to Africa is not part of any plans but Africom’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago.
“In the case of Africom, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners. We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements.”
Former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, added that aside from the fact that the cost of moving Africom to Africa is huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner over the years. He recalled that when President George W Bush established Africom in 2007, African official reaction was largely hostile, seeing the effort as neo-colonialist.
According to Mr Campbell, President Buhari’s request marked a reversal of Nigeria’s official opposition to Africom. He added that the Nigerian government took the lead in persuading or strong-arming other African states against accepting the Africom headquarters.