Nigeria’s federal government on Thursday ruled out hiring mercenaries to fight the insurgency war, saying the country has enough personnel and resources to fight insecurity, especially with the reform of the armed forces by President Muhammadu Buhari.
It also foreclosed negotiations with bandits and terrorists, 2,403 of who have been killed by security forces since 2015, contending that doing so could suggest weakness and incapacity on the part of the government.
Buhari, who met behind closed doors with some traditional rulers, said he had given security chiefs marching orders to hunt down criminals, including shooting anyone found illegally bearing AK-47.
Addressing journalists Thursday in Abuja, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), stated that the services of mercenaries would no longer be required as the military has the firepower and expertise to defeat insurgents.
Monguno spoke following clamour that the federal government should enlist military contractors to bring a quick end to the anti-terror war.
Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, rekindled the debate on the necessity of employing mercenaries to assist troops in combating the insurgency.
Zulum had also called on the federal government to seek the support of neighbouring countries in the fight against insurgency.
The governor in November 2020 had made a case for the employment of mercenaries as done by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Jonathan administration had used Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection (STTEP), a South African company, to degrade the insurgents in the North-east, making it possible for the reclaiming of some towns and villages from the insurgents, which eventually paved the way for the conduct of elections in many areas in Borno State in 2015.
The governor, at the North-east Governors’ Forum meeting in Bauchi last week, restated his advocacy for the recruitment of foreign fighters in the fight against insurgency.
The House of Representatives, a week later, joined Zulum in demanding the recruitment of foreign mercenaries to assist in the fight against insurgency.
The House passed a resolution on Wednesday for the recruitment of foreign fighters following a motion moved by Hon. Abdulkadir Rahis, representing Maiduguri Metropolitan Federal Constituency.
But Hon. Manu Masur, representing Darazo/Ganjuwa Federal Constituency, moved for an amendment of the motion and asked the federal government to consider foreign-paid fighters.
The motion was adopted after it was put to a voice vote.
However, Monguno ruled out the federal government seeking the help of mercenaries in the renewed onslaught against Boko Haram, revealing that troops have killed no fewer than 2,403 insurgents since the current administration took off in May 2015.
According to him, it is pointless re-engaging the mercenaries in the fight against Boko Haram since Nigeria has enough resources to deal with the situation.
He said: “The president’s view and the directive are that we will not engage mercenaries when we have our own people to deal with these problems. We have the personnel and resources, and the president has given a new lease of life to the armed forces.”
He stated that the federal government will also deploy all necessary force to eliminate insurgents and bandits rather than opening talks with them.
“We can’t be singing the same song every day, and these people are unreliable. They are ignoble; they are ready to undermine whatever agreement we have had. So, because of that, if the opportunity avails itself, of course, we will talk with responsible people from the side of those people. I don’t even know how to categorise them because it’s not as if they are looking for something you can point a finger at; it’s not some kind of nationalistic situation – something you can actually identify and relate to,” he said.
Monguno described bandits and insurgents as a murderous group of individuals who are keyed up on drugs, adding that there is nothing to negotiate with them.
According to him, “While the government is not averse to talking to these entities, these human beings, I have to be very honest, the government has to apply its weight, that force that is required because you can’t even talk with people who are unreliable, who will turn out to do a different thing and people who will continue to hurt society.
“So, basically, what the government wants to rely upon is to deal with this issue by using all the assets – military assets, intelligence assets to eliminate these people.
“If along the line, some of them are ready to come out and talk and negotiate, when the time comes, we will do that but for now, we can’t keep on dwelling on let’s dialogue.”
Monguno emphasised that negotiating with the criminals will suggest weakness and incapacity on the part of the government.
“Psychologically, it is not even good for us. It paints the picture of weakness; it paints the picture of incapacity, and I, just like what the governor of Kaduna State said, do not see any reason why we cannot, with what we have, deal with these elements.
“These are people, who are not looking for anything that is genuine or legitimate; these are people who are just out to perform atrocities, to take calculated measures to inflict pain, violence on people,” he said.
He stated that the new direction of government “is to come out with full force,” adding that the government will not allow itself to be blackmailed by any group or any individual “who thinks he can hide under the surface and use proxies to deal a fatal blow on innocent people. I want to assure you categorically and unequivocally, government is going to apply full weight to deal with these criminals until such a time that they vacate the shores of this country.”
The NSA explained that is difficult to quantify achievements in the security sector, as most successes are operational in nature “which can only be satisfactorily narrated to the people in the complete absence of panic, etc.”
On the achievements of Buhari’s administration in the security sector since it assumed office on May 29, 2015, Monguno said the security forces have killed 2,403 insurgents, sea pirates and freed 864 kidnapped persons.
He stressed the need for cooperation among the different arms of government to fashion out and apply new laws to deal with insecurity in the country.
He added that it makes no sense using 1958 laws to punish today’s offences.
He listed major issues impeding efforts at battling insecurity as personnel shortage and lack of equipment, adding that Buhari has now given the go-ahead to address the problems.
He also called on people to assist security agencies with Intelligence to overcome the asymmetric war as only locals can provide information to apprehend criminals among them.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan