Federal Government plans to withdraw some of the Nigerian troops from the United Nations Multi-Dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali as they are needed back home.
The government dismissed the claim that the withdrawal was in protest over the appointment of non-Nigerian to head the AFISMA in the crisis-ridden country.
ECOWAS recently appointed Major-General Jean Bosco Kazura of Rwanda as Commander of African-led International Support Mission in Mali, AFISMA, now United Nations Multi-Dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali, MINUSMA.
The appointment, many observers noted, did not go down well with Nigeria which decided to recall its troop in batches.
The Ivorien President and Chairman, Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, confirmed the development to journalists at the end of the 43rd Ordinary Session of ECOWAS in Abuja, Thursday.
He said: “It is because of the domestic situation in Nigeria. I received a letter from the President that Nigeria needs some of its people.
“They are not withdrawing everyone. They are withdrawing part of the troops. A good part of the troops are going to be there.”
However, a military source said troops would pull out because the country felt “shabbily treated” under the new UN force in Mali.
A Nigerian commanded the previous African-led force in the country, but the UN mission is being headed by a Rwandan.
The source said: “Nigeria feels shabbily treated when it became a UN outfit. A non-Nigerian was appointed as Force Commander, while we are putting so much into the mission.
“So we think we can make better use of those people at home than to keep them where they are not appreciated. It is not all of them that will be withdrawn.
The UN mission integrates more than 6,000 West African soldiers into its ranks and is charged with ensuring security during and after July 28 elections in Mali.
It is to grow to 11,200 troops, as well as 1,400 police, by the end of the year.
French forces intervened in Mali in January to push out Islamist rebels, who had seized the north. The UN deployment has allowed France to start withdrawing most of its 4,500 troops.
Nigeria approved the deployment of 900 troops with the capacity to increase to 1,200 under the previous African-led force.
Violence linked to an insurgency by Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, mainly in the north, has left some 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.