Some retired generals and socio-political organisations on Wednesday faulted the call for hiring of mercenaries to fight the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East.
An ex-Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Joshua Dogonyaro (retd.); a former General Officer Commanding, 1 Division, Major General Abiodun Role (retd.) and Corps Commander, Amotekun Corps in Osun State, Brigadier General Bashir Adewinbi, (retd.), in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said Nigerians were capable of defending themselves.
Recall that following the killing of 43 rice farmers at Kwashebe village in Borno State on Saturday, the state Governor Babagana Zulum, appealed to the Federal Government to hire mercenaries to fight the insurgents.
Zulum has received the support of his counterparts, the North-East governors and the Senate.
Before the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd)’s assumption of office, the Federal Government hired mercenaries to fight insurgents.
The Buhari regime, however, dispensed with the services of the mercenaries on assumption of office in 2015.
But retired generals who spoke to The PUNCH on Wednesday cautioned against the return of mercenaries.
Nobody will do it for us, mercenaries hired in the past fled – Ex-GOC
Role, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Ibadan, said Nigeria did not need to hire mercenaries against the Boko Haram insurgents.
He said what the military needed was the support of the citizens including the media, to help in the asymmetrical war.
He stated such wars were not easily won, saying some mercenaries hired at a point discovered that they were not familiar with the terrain and fled after they had lost some of their colleagues.
Role said, “It’s like you have a problem in your own house and you think the only people that can help you out are strangers. Why do we always say that we should bring Americans, bring Chadians any time we have such a security challenge?
“It is annoying to have such a thought always. Why did we diminish ourselves? What the media need to help do is to enlighten Nigerians to let them know that asymmetrical warfare is not easily won. When the media give their vent to the event like the one that just happened, it emboldens the insurgents and that is what they need.
“Some are saying we should call Chad. Which experience does Chadians have more than Nigerian military in this area?
“The other time Idris Derby said he neutralised 1,000 Boko Haram fighters. Did we ever see the 1, 000 bodies? He went to some villages and performed some macabre actions. He went to some villages and dislodged some insurgents and they are using that to cast aspersion on Nigeria.
“They said we should engage mercenaries. Didn’t (Sambo) Dasuki engage mercenaries in the North-East? Those guys mercenaries) saw that they were not familiar with the terrain, after few of them were neutralised, they packed their loads and fled. My strong opinion is that if we can put right our situation, nobody will do it for us.”
Involving mercenaries in insurgent war will fail – Retired general
On his part, Adewinbi said involving mercenaries in the insurgency war would fail.
Adewinbi said if mercenaries would work in the same environment where soldiers had failed, no better result would be achieved.
He said, “First, our border is so porous in that area. They (insurgents) move freely. They move their logistics and men. They can come in a deceptive form to cause havoc and go back.
“The people of that area too are not cooperating with the soldiers. Boko Haram members are living within the people. When they come, they operate within the people. People in the area are the ones providing logistics, intelligence and supporting the insurgents. Even if you bring mercenaries from anywhere, Boko Haram will still operate, mercenaries will fail. Reorientation of people is key to make them more supportive to the army.”
Dogonyaro in a telephone chat with one of our correspondents in Jos on Wednesday said Nigeria was not incapable of defending itself against terrorists
When asked if the call to merceneries was in order, the former ECOMOG field Commander asked. “Are Nigerians incapable of protecting themselves against the killers?”
Also, the CNG and NEF, Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo faulted the call for the hiring of mercenaries.
The CNG described the call as “the most unreasonable”, while NEF said, “hiring mercenaries represents a fatal indictment on the capacity of our armed forces.”
Afenifere said the suggestion for the use of mercenaries to fight Boko Haram “is a big shame on Nigeria.”
The Spokesperson of the CNG, Abdul-azzez Suleiman; NEF Director (Publicity and Advocacy), Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed and National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, said these in separate interviews with The PUNCH.
Suleiman said, “This is one of the most unreasonable calls. The Borno governor might have been pushed by the circumstances he is facing into making that call. We don’t blame him. In his place any, leader with a passion for his people would make same or even more desperate suggestions.
“Rather than contemplating hiring mercenaries, first, Nigerians, particularly northerners must eschew hypocrisy and tell the Buhari government that it has failed in the vital area of protecting citizens’ lives and their livelihoods. We must all unite in calling for his resignation and in the alternative, explore other available democratic windows for achieving some form of change.
“This is because if Buhari cannot in the very least call Garba Shehu to order for making those insensitive remarks that tend to blame the slain farmers of Borno for negligence and telling the Senate and the whole nation that the evidently failed service chiefs must remain, then certainly Buhari has lost it. We do not buy the idea of hiring mercenaries. Rather, the CNG is more comfortable with mobilising the population to protect itself.”
Faulting the call, Baba- Ahmed said, “Hiring mercenaries represents a fatal indictment on the capacity of our armed forces. We need to first acknowledge that we have a military that has been led to fail. Then we have to agree what we need to do with a leadership which will create problems even for mercenaries.
“I do not believe that the President or the leadership of the armed forces will accept this recommendation. Our military can defeat Boko Haram and other internal security challenges. But it needs stronger political will and a more committed leadership. Our current leadership will not accept to change how it deals with our problems.”
Odumakin said, “It’s a big shame on Nigeria that we are now having calls for mercenaries against Boko Haram in spite of the propaganda by Lai Mohammed that the group has been degraded.”
The Pan Niger Delta Forum described it as a shame, adding that it reinforced the various calls for re-jigging of the country’s security architecture and sack of the service chiefs.
PANDEF spokesman, Ken Robinson, who said this in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “It’s a shame that validates the insinuations and assumptions earlier that the Nigeria military is incapable of overrunning the insurgents. It is a shame for us to be discussing about mercenaries. Nigeria is a funny county.
“There are mercenaries in all countries who support the military in such countries. It is known, but no country discusses that. No country comes out to say we want to hire mercenaries to fight insurgency in our country. It’s a shame!”
On its part, Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said there was no master strategist in the Nigerian military.
Acting Secretary-General and National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said this was the result of deliberate and undue retirement of ranking officers that were not from a particular and preferred section of the country.
Achi-Okpaga said, “I see it from a different perspective. Prosecuting a war depends largely on the strategy employed but the Nigerian military seems to be in a quagmire.
“Even if they contemplated hiring mercenaries it should be a top secret as a war strategy. What is important to Nigerians is the result – that Boko Haram is flushed out.”
A Borno State elder, Prof. Khalifa Dikwa, who spoke to The PUNCH in Maiduguri, cautioned government.
Dikwa, said, “We have passed through that experience before when mercenaries were hired from countries with questionable disposition towards the insurgency, we cannot allow that to happen in our state again.
“We are in support of the governor’s recommendation for the hiring of mercenaries but proper profiling has to be done.”
Nigerian military can’t end B’Haram – Retired colonel
But Colonel Rabiu Yandoto (retd.), in an interview with The PUNCH in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, said the Nigerian military could not end Boko Haram insurgency.
He, therefore, supported the call for the recruitment of mercenaries.
Yandoto said the military had completely failed in the fight against insurgency, stressing that he was in total support of recruiting mercenaries to tackle the issue.
“I am in complete support of the mercenaries because the country has suffered so much as a result of Boko Haram insurgency. We need support from wherever it will come from if it could bring an end to this menace”.
According to Yandoto, the military has been making promises on tacking the Boko Haram insurgency but the issue has yet to be addressed.
He maintained tha, if the mercenaries could bring lasting peace to the country, there was nothing wrong in inviting them.
Also, a retired brigadier-general, who was also in the North-East and who spoke on condition of anonymity, supported the deployment of mercenaries, noting that it would reduce human casualties on the part of the Nigerian military and minimise sabotage.
Nigeria needs foreign partners to defeat insurgents – Security experts
Also, some security experts endorsed the call for the engagement of foreign mercenaries, stating that the nation needed foreign collaboration to defeat the Boko Haram insurgents.
A retired Director, Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofor, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Nigeria lacked the technical capacity to battle the terrorists alone without international support.
According to him, the government cannot simply fold its hands while the citizens are being killed in hundreds.
He said, “I fully endorse and support the recruitment of mercenaries if that would help us. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves; we don’t have the technical capacity to do this. So, we need to collaborate with other advanced countries with the capacity.
“You recall how the United States Navy Seal came to rescue an American. Do you know how much it cost them to come to Nigeria to rescue one citizen? Those are people who place a premium on their citizens.
“We can’t just sit down, fold our hands and every day, you will hear a hundred people killed as if life is now meaningless. So, I fully endorse that the Federal Government should look for support, not only for mercenaries but for technical support. Terrorism is not something you fight locally, you need foreign partners.”
A security expert, Ben Okezie, also said there was nothing wrong with engaging mercenaries to assist the military in defeating the terrorists in the North-East, stressing that fighting terrorism required international support.
“There is no way you can expect the military to handle it alone, so the best thing is for them (military) to solicit assistance from countries which are specialists in international terrorism because this is no more local but international terrorism,” he stated.
“During the Biafra war, mercenaries were used. Biafra brought in mercenaries and Nigeria also used mercenaries and you can see how the war ended. I don’t think anything is wrong with bringing in mercenaries. We should forget national pride and go for them,” Okezie added.
But a Security Risk Management consultant, Kabir Adamu, argued that the private army should be engaged only after the nation had exhausted all avenues.
He cautioned against the hasty deployment of mercenaries, noting that many countries that engaged them regretted their decision.
The security expert said the government has abandoned the National Counter-Terrorism Strategy which provides a clear-cut avenue for countering extremism and addressing insurgency.