LAGOS — President Goodluck Jonathan has said the final decision on what to do about the refusal of beleaguered outgoing president of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Laurent Gbagbo, to heed the global call for him to vacate his seat for the winner of the country's presidential election, Allasane Quattara, will be taken after January 3, 2011.
The committee comprising President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and the President of ECOWAS Commission, Mr. James Victor Gbeho, was said to have been rebuffed by Gbagbo who insisted that he was not going to step down as he claimed he won the election.
However, the meeting between Jonathan and the team held behind closed-doors was described by the President as positive and fruitful though he would not go into details.
He said it would not be fair to pre-empt the outcome of further meetings since negotiations were still on, adding that no decisions on how to tackle the Ivoirien problem would be taken till the delegation returns from the crisis-ridden country next year.
Gbeho had stated in a briefing after the summit with Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs Odein Ajumogobia (SAN) that they were offering Gbagbo a chance to leave honourably, failing which he would be forced out.
They went further to put the chiefs of army staff of all member-nations on the alert to be followed by a meeting on how to secure the borders in the event Gbagbo refused to heed their directive to leave office for Quatarra.
"In this season of peace, the summit decided to make an ultimate gesture to Mr. Gbagbo by urging him to make a peaceful exit," Gbeho said.
"In this regard, the authority decided to dispatch a special high-level delegation to Cote d'Ivoire," he added.
According to him, "In the event that Mr. Gbagbo fails to heed this immutable demand of ECOWAS, the community would be left with no other alternative but to take other measures, including the use of legitimate force, to achieve the goals of the Ivoirien people."
He went on: "Against the background of the parlous security situation, the heads of state and government hereby instruct the President of ECOWAS Commission to convene without delay a meeting of the chiefs of defence staff in order to plan future actions, including the provision of security along the Cote d'Ivoire border, in the event that their message is not heeded."
Gbagbo had lost the country's re-run presidential poll to Quattara following the results declared by that country's electoral commission but he has refused to relinquish power despite the global demand that he should quit.
But Sydney Morning Herald quoted a senior diplomat as saying the meeting of the ECOWAS defence chiefs was about "the military planning ... and the logistics" of any eventual operation.
Abdel-Fatau Musah, Director for Political Affairs and External Relations for the 15-member ECOWAS regional bloc, said the talks had begun on Tuesday and was finished yesterday.
Nigeria's defence spokes-man, Colonel Mohammed Yerimah, confirmed the meeting was held but the decisions would be communicated later.