Since 1960s, Nigeria has been a major contributor of troops and police to United Nations peace operations, serving and making sacrifices in dozens of missions, the UN said.
According to a 2016 data published by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Nigeria is the world’s 14th largest troops contributing nation to United Nations Peacekeeping operations.
According to the report, Nigeria ranks eighth in Africa, contributing a total of 2, 170 peacekeeping personnel in 2016.
It shows that in that year, Nigeria provided 403 policemen, 46 military experts and 1,721 troops, out of which 232 were females, as of Aug. 31, 2016.
It notes that even recently, the UN said Nigerian troops were the military backbone of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), from 2003 to 2018.
The report notes further that Nigerian peacekeepers, during the period, helped to restore security throughout a country that had undergone a brutal civil war.
“In January 2018, Liberians and the international community watched the first democratic transfer of power in the country in decades.
“This is thanks in no small part to Nigeria and other troop and police contributing countries,” the UN says in the report.
According to DPKO, Nigeria has also made commendable efforts to include female peacekeepers in their ranks.
The peacekeeping department said: “Out of the 20,000 Nigerians who have served in Liberia, more than 1,500 were women.
“The UN is taking steps and engaging with Members States to include more women in its peacekeeping operations around the world”.
Liberia’s new President George Weah recently commended UNMIL for its longstanding support to peace and stability.
Weah said: “The Liberian people will forever remain grateful to you for your bravery and service to our great nation.
“Thank you for your hard work and sacrifice you have made over the years to keep the peace and stability of our beloved mama Liberia. As you leave us now, we will forever remember you”.
According to UNMIL, Nigeria is one of the first countries to provide troops in Liberia in 2003, and among the last to leave, its final troops flying out just last week.
The mission said the last batch of 200 Nigerian peacekeepers deployed to Liberia recently withdrew after five years following the conclusion of their mission in the country.
“The last military protection force in UNMIL left Liberia on Feb. 10, 2018, as part of the termination of the mission’s mandate, scheduled on March 30,” the mission said.
UNMIL was established in September 2003 to monitor a ceasefire agreement in Liberia following the resignation of President Charles Taylor and the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War.
Nigeria has won several laurels and awards to show for its contribution to peace with more than 15,000 veteran peacekeepers awarded UN letters of commendation and medals for outstanding performances during their tour of duty.
In 2012, the Acting Head of UNMIL, Mr Louis Aucoin, honoured more than 1,500 Nigerian peacekeepers, including 92 women, with UN medals for their contributions to UNMIL and peace in Liberia.
An official farewell ceremony was held recently in honour of the departing police and military personnel who have served with the Mission.
This symbolised the end of UNMIL’s military and police operations in Liberia, more than 14 years after UNMIL was deployed in compliance with Security Council resolution 1509 (2003).
The Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Salihu Uba, was Head of UNMIL’s Military component of men and women from various countries particularly, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine.
Uba was Commander of the Training and Doctrine Command of the Nigerian Army (TRADOC) before his appointment on Jan. 9, 2015, as the Force Commander for UNMIL by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Formed Police Unit composed of Nigerian and Chinese personnel and since 2003, 61 contingents from various countries had served in Liberia, UNMIL said.
The Force Commander stated that it was not all roses particularly for the military, which had the highest fatalities of 138 personnel while the police lost 21 persons.
“As we are closing, the memory of those 159 persons and others in the Mission will continue to live in our minds.
“We will continue to pay special tribute to them and those who contributed to peace and security in Liberia,” he said.
The Force Commander, on behalf of the Police Commissioner Simon Blatchly, expressed their profound appreciation to the uniformed component of UNMIL.
“As individual units and contingents, you have done remarkably well to keep the flags high, we are proud of your endeavours as significant contribution to peace in Liberia.
“Today Liberia is a success story and classic example of a post conflict nation that has emerged stronger than ever before.
“The country is indeed a symbol of hope for other nations engulfed in conflicts and wars,” Uba said.
Nigeria served and sacrificed for a peaceful Liberia
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Farid Zarif, in his speech, said the event signified an important benchmark in the history of the UN in West Africa.
“While my colleagues in uniform are writing the last pages of the peacekeeping operations here, Liberians and their Leaders have started writing the first pages of a brand new chapter in their history.
“The fact that the current circumstances allow the departure of our last contingent indicates that Liberia has reached the point where they feel absolutely confident of their future,” Zarif said.
As the UNMIL officially ends its mandate on March 30, 2018, UN says it is appreciative of Nigeria’s active participation in peacekeeping around the world over the years.
“These brave individuals had left their families behind to work in some of the most hostile environments on the planet to help others, save lives and promote peace and security.
“Being away from their families for months at a time can be one of the most difficult aspects of being a peacekeeper. We thank them for their service and sacrifice,” the UN said.