President Paul Biya did not attend a summit Thursday in the Nigerian capital Abuja where a joint military task force to fight Boko Haram was finally created.
Four nations surrounding the Lake Chad and Benin pledged to contribute 8,700 troops to the new force by the end of next month.
It was a significant step after months of attempts to set up a multinational force to stop Boko Haram’s reign of terror, which has extended from northeast Nigeria to the entire Lake Chad region.
Defense minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o represented President Biya at the summit. Biya had convened a similar meeting in Yaounde last February.
Nigeria will command and supply the largest number of troops to the joint force to be stationed in the Chadian capital Ndjamena.
Other troops will come from Cameroon, Chad and Niger who have been involved in loosely coordinated but successful operations in the area and Benin.
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria rejected a proposal to rotate leadership of the force among participating countries every six months, calling the approach disruptive.
A week before the meeting, Nigeria had already announced the appointment of Major-General Tukur Burati to lead the joint force.
Buhari has been more open than his predecessor to working with neighboring countries to combat the armed group that has killed more than 15,000 people in six years.
He said Nigeria will release $100 million pledged by its former administration to the joint force as a sign of commitment.
Boko Haram says it wants to create an Islamic caliphate in the region and has pledged allegiance to the Islamic Group, which has similar ambitions in the Mideast.
The group has been significantly contained over the past several months but has remained deadly, killing more than 100 people in the past month.
An attack, in which Cameroon killed three militants, left a community self-defense group member dead near Mora in the Far North this week.