Some members of the ousted regime of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi have crossed over to some parts of Northern Nigeria, according to reports by Hamada Radio International.
According to the radio, the crossover to Nigeria happened last night when convoy of trucks slipped and headed towards the north western town of Katsina.
Nigerian security officials, however, denied knowledge of the development, sparking fears that the country may be unprepared for the security threat posed by the collapse of the old Libyan regime.
The radio reported that the development was coming as a result of a hot chase of the old regime’s loyalists by French and British Special Forces.
The report also said that some members of the old Libyan regime were heading towards Burkina-Faso.
The radio said that its sources had disclosed that more than 200 Nigerians were arrested in Libya by the Transitional National Council (TNC), while about 20 were executed last week.
Operating on 119KHZ, Hamada Radio International is an Hausa language station broadcasting to Nigeria and Niger, transmitted from Wertachtal, Bayern, Germany.
When contacted on phone for comment on the development, the spokesperson in the State Security Services (SSS) Mrs Merlyn Ogar said the service was not aware of Gaddafi’s troops presence in the country. ‘ I am hearing this from you for the first time, so I cannot comment on what we have not confirmed,’ she said.
Speaking in the same vein, the Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olusola Amore, also denied knowledge of Gaddafi’s troop’s presence in the country, adding, ‘I am not aware of it. Where there is a challenge, we will know how to deal with it. I wouldn’t tell you what we would do about it, especially now that we don’t have information about it’, Amore said.
Efforts to get the Presidency’s comment proved abortive, as none of the phone calls placed across to Aso-Rock was answered. Among the persons called include the President’s spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, and the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Media to the Vice President, Alhaji Umar Sani.
Series of security co-coordinating conferences between Nigeria and Niger on how to fashion out containment strategy of the Libyan crisis have been held.
This, however, came on fast heels, particularly the new wave of trans-border crossing by prominent Gaddafi loyalists, including Gen. Houssa Daw, the head of his presidential unit.
According to the report, some members of the Libyan military have maintained close family ties with Northern Nigeria, citing Gen. Youssef Dbiri, who headed Gaddafi’s security service and had his maternal root in Nguru, Yobe State, North-Eastern Nigeria.
According to security service sources in Niger Republic, the fragile ceasefire between the Toureg rebels and Niamey will be tested in the coming weeks if attempts are made to give outright support to Special Forces from France, UK, U.S.A and Jordan in the Gaddafi hunt.
Another fear is the solidarity and sympathy, which the fleeing Gaddafi supporters might get from Southern Niger, in the Maradi-Damagaran axis, and the outer fringes of Northern Nigeria where al-Qaeda affiliated Boko Haram, is lately seen as potent force.
Although the Libyan leader had said he would not leave the country and also urged his supporters to fight on, he reportedly fled the capital, Tripoli after NATO-backed rebels took over a few weeks ago.
In a phone message broadcast on Syria’s al-Rai TV late on Wednesday, Col Gaddafi was forced to deny persistent rumours that he had already fled over the border.
He dismissed the claims as lies and psychological warfare and insisted he would still be able to defeat his opponents.
In recent days, several convoys of formerly loyal fighters have streamed over the border of Niger.
A number of his aides, including his chief of security, Mansour Daw – have already reached the capital, Niamey, according to reports.
Commenting on the implication of the issue on the country’s foreign policy, Prof. Akinjide Idowu Osuntokun said it would be contradictory to Nigeria’s policy.
‘Well, I don’t have the information that you have but I will be surprised if the information that you have is true. Even before this crisis in Libya, Gadhafi had always irritated Nigeria by some of his comments. So, I will be surprised if Nigeria will in any way possible assist Gaddafi. I doubt the veracity of the report that Gaddafi’s people have crossed over to Nigeria.
‘It’s not likely to be true because Nigeria supported the intervention by the UN in protecting civilians in Libya. Secondly, Nigeria has recognised the (TNC), it will be contradictory if we are to provide exile for some of Gaddafi Supporters.
‘Nigeria is a very serious country and our foreign policy is not taken lightly. We will not act that low, he said.
But for Dr. Irene Osemeka, Department of History and Strategic Studies (UNILAG), such information should not be dismissed with a wave of hand.
‘There is a courtship between both of us (Nigeria and Niger Republic) and don’t forget that they are all Muslims. It has been on going even before the war. So, in peacetime that migration was going on and because we have a conflict there, there is this refugee migration from that region. And, of course, loyalists of Gadhafi are being sought after by the rebel government. We expect to find some of them streaming into Nigeria. Nigeria is not far from Niger. What this tells us is that you cannot contain conflict in the conflicting region.
‘On the implication, this is clear. You know Nigeria is supporting the anti-Gadhafi forces, the rebel group. We are going to see some of the fallouts of that Libyan crisis whether we like it or not. There will be incursions. You know there are some disturbances in the north and it’s going to increase the tempo of those disturbances overtime. There are some elements and some arm movements into Northern part of Nigeria and that is going to fuel the existing crisis that we have on ground, this Boko Haram and others.
The Federal Government should tighten security around our border regions with Niger. That can also be a problem because of the relationship of the people in that region,’ Osemeka advised.