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Africa

Nigeria wants command of regional anti-Boko Haram force

Nigeria is staking out its claim to be the lead nation in the fight against the Islamist group Boko Haram. President Muhammadu Buhari has dismissed a rotational command structure with regional coalition partners.

Nigeria has called for one of its commanders to be put in charge of a new regional fighting force until the Boko Haram insurgency has been crushed.

Heads of state and government from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin flew in to Nigerian capital Abuja for a summit on Thursday, after two days of preparatory talks involving military top brass and defense ministers.

The five countries have jointly expressed their determination to defeat Boko Haram, but new Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari left no doubt about his desire to control the counter-insurgency effort.

Rejecting a six-month rotational command structure between the five nations, he said "such a process will undermine, even if it is not intended, the military capacity to sustain the push against the insurgents."

A single commander would improve "the effectiveness of military strategy, since Nigeria will be providing the bulk of the troops and the main theatre of the war is on Nigerian soil," the Nigerian leader added.

Chad, Niger and Cameroon deployed troops earlier this year to help Nigeria cope with the insurgents. Their joint effort has claimed a series of successes.

Yan Pierre, counter-terrorism consultant and CEO at the Modern Security Consulting Group MOSCECON) told DW's AfricaLink show these successes have brought the smaller countries prestige and Nigeria's insistence on running the anti-Boko Haram coalition is very likely to cause friction.

"If you consider that Boko Haram started out in Nigeria and it is still mainly a Nigerian problem, this is actually a very logical step, but the political and prestige implications will make it more difficult," he said.

Mohammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari is under pressure to defeat the insurgency

Buhari has 'zero time'

Buhari has been engaged in a flurry of activity since his inauguration on May 29 which stands in stark contrast to years of apparent inaction in tackling the group by his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

He has already moved the Nigerian military's command center from Abuja to Maiduguri, a Boko Haram stronghold.

Last weekend, Buhari appealed to world leaders at the G7 summit in Germany for more help in combating extremism and visited Chad and Niger to push for longer-term co-operation on security threats.

Political analyst Imad Mesdoua from the Africa Matters consultancy told the AFP news agency Buhari was aware he had to address the issue swiftly during his honeymoon period with the electorate.

"He has zero time. I really think he has to hit the ground running. He has to get everything in place as fast as possible," he said.

Meanwhile three women wearing explosive vests blew up and were killed near Maiduguri in a suspected failed suicide bombing attack against the city, local police said on Thursday.

The new agency AP reported that the blasts occurred near the highway leading into the city on Tuesday.

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