The President Muahammadu Buhari-led federal government has reengaged mercenaries brought in by the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan to help in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency.
Anadolu Agency, the Turkish news agency, reports that about 250 personnel from the South African private security firm, Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection, STTEP, are being deployed to the North east.
“The mercenaries have been reengaged and their platforms are being deployed,” the news agency quoted a defence source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“By platforms, I mean fighter jets, helos [helicopters], coms [communication], surveillance, medics, etc.”
STTEP was engaged amidst secrecy by the previous administration when the general elections were postponed by six weeks, and despite the government denying it, it became public knowledge.
Troops confirmed to the www.icirnigeria.org then that they fought alongside these mercenaries, who they described as “very good.”
This website was also informed that following the defeat of the former president in the rescheduled elections, the contractor was hurriedly disengaged under the pretence of contractual disagreement.
“They left two weeks after the presidential election,” a defence source had told our reporter in confidence. “The reason given was that there was disagreement in the contract.”
Since President Buhari took over, more than 1, 500 people have lost their lives from Boko Haram insurgency and with the three months deadline given by the President to the service chiefs to end the insurgency looming, there seems to be no decrease in the activities of the insurgent.
This latest development will mark a significant change on the part of the President, who had before his inauguration described as unacceptable the reliance on mercenaries for the successes recorded against the insurgents.
“What is more worrisome is the fact that Nigeria’s military has to rely on South African mercenaries before it could gain recent success in the war against Boko Haram. This situation is shameful and unacceptable,” the President said in May when he met with the leadership of the Arewa Consultative Forum in Kaduna.
“I don’t know how many of you know this. I got to know about it few days ago that the recent gains in the northeast were because South African mercenaries were used,” he stated.
Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a Lieutenant General, had last week issued a rallying cry to troops involved in the fight against insurgency in the North east and suggested an imminent assault on the insurgents.
“The next few days will be crucial to Op LAFIYA DOLE. It is also crucial to our country Nigeria. Our sovereignty as a nation is threatened. The Nigerian Army and indeed the military as the symbol of our nationhood is being challenged,” Buratai said.
“Our ability to stand and defeat the Boko Haram terrorists in the next few weeks will determine the future of our country. We cannot afford to lose the fight.”
Nigerian Army spokesperson, Sani Usman, declined commenting on the issue.
“I do not speak for Federal Government,” he replied to a text message sent to him.
However, Senior Special on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, told Anadolu Agency that the government is not bringing in mercenaries into the country to fight Boko Haram.
“It is true that the previous administration hired South African mercenaries to fight Boko Haram,” he said. “They, however, left with the government that brought them.”
“Since coming into office, this government did not have any engagement with mercenaries of any kind and there are no plans to do so.”