Jonathan with Buhari in Aso Rock

By Kazeem Ugbodaga

Nigeria’s former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the Mali crisis at the State House, Abuja.

The meeting came ahead of an extraordinary virtual summit by ECOWAS heads of state and leaders, scheduled for Friday.

Jonathan led ECOWAS Special Envoy to Mali where a military coup had toppled the elected government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

He briefed the President on dialogue with the military coup leaders, who were seeking to stay in power for three years, before holding elections.

“They call themselves National Committee for the Salvation of the People. We asked them to allow ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to return to his personal residence, where he would be given tight security, but they said he could travel abroad, and not return to answer questions they may have for him,” he said.

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Jonathan also said the team told them that what would be acceptable to ECOWAS was an Interim Government, headed by a civilian or retired military officer, to last for six or nine months, and maximum of 12 calendar months.

He said the Interim Government would then organize elections to restore full constitutional order.

The former president disclosed that his team was allowed to meet with the ousted President, who confirmed that he resigned voluntarily, adding that he was no longer interested in returning to his former position.

He added that the military leaders wanted ECOWAS to lift sanctions put in place, as it was already affecting the country, but that the team told them that the authority to do such was only in the hands of ECOWAS heads of state.

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In his response, Buhari said the priority in Mali now should be securing the country, which is largely occupied by terrorists.

According to Buhari, about two-thirds of Mali was occupied by terrorists, and that it made common sense to secure the country, rather than pursuing individual interests.

He said the sub-region would take a common position on the issue when the leaders meet on Friday, hoping that an amicable and generally acceptable position to all interested parties would be arrived at.