President Muhammadu Buhari Friday hosted Chad’s military ruler, Mahamat Deby, in Abuja. At the event, the Nigerian leader did not condemn the coup that brought Mr Deby to power but said Nigeria will assist Chad to stabilize and return to constitutional order.
Details of the meeting were contained in a statement by Mr Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina.
Mahamat Deby assumed office following the death of his father, Idriss Deby, who ruled Chad for over three decades. Idriss Deby was killed in April in a battle with rebels, a day after he won reelection for a sixth term.
The Chadian constitution states that the speaker of the parliament should become interim president upon the death of an incumbent president. The speaker is expected to hold office for 40 days while a fresh election is held.
However, following the death of the elder Deby, the Chadian military announced the dissolution of the parliament and the suspension of the constitution. The military then installed Mahamat Deby, an army general, as president, a move condemned by the opposition in the country.
Disquiet has grown in the oil-producing Central African nation since the illegal transition, and different world leaders have shied away from condemning the constitutional breach and none have called it a coup.
France, which colonised Chad until 1960 and still has a huge influence on the country, has declared support for the coup, saying it was necessary to maintain stability.
Nigeria, Chad’s larger and influential neighbour, has also avoided condemning the military’s action.
On Friday, Mr Buhari continued with the Nigerian stance when he hosted the Chadian leader.
The Nigerian leader reaffirmed his support to Chad’s military council, saying “We are bound together by culture and geography, and we will help in all ways we can.”
“Nigerians know and appreciate the role Chad played in helping us to combat terrorism, and we will continue the collaboration,” he said.
He, however, called on the Chadian military to ensure a ‘smooth transition’ to civil rule.
“We will also help you to ensure a smooth transition in 18 months, as you have promised your people,” Mr Buhari said.
He also described the late Deby as a “personal friend, and a friend of Nigeria,” saying “Chad has been very steadfast in defending Nigeria.”
For this, he said, the country should not hesitate to ask for help in areas it deemed necessary.
Chad’s fight against Boko Haram
Chad has played a major role in regional collaboration to defeat terrorist groups in the Lake Chad region.
Then led by late Idriss Deby, Chad was part of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) which was formed to defeat Boko Haram.
On Friday, Mr Buhari said Nigeria was committed to strengthening the LCBC and the MNJTF.
On his part, the Chadian leader thanked Nigeria for the solidarity shown after the death of his father. He said the main objective of the Transitional Military Council “is the security and cohesion of our country.”
He expressed his commitment to democratic, free, fair polls in 18 months, telling Mr Buhari: “You were very close to Marshal Itno. I’m here to reaffirm that relationship, and for you to support our transition. We rely on our brother country Nigeria, as we have shared history, culture and geography. We are ready to be guided by you in our journey to constitutional rule.”