The Nigerian Armed Forces is capable of prosecuting the war against Boko Haram without the assistance of mercenaries, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said yesterday.
The Defence Headquarters was reacting to reports by some foreign news agencies that Nigeria is planning to hire South African mercenaries to assist the military in the ongoing counter-insurgency war in the North-east.
The former administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration was heavily criticized for secretly engaging the services of some South African mercenaries.
A Turkish news agency – Anadolu, reported yesterday that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is also planning to continue in the footsteps of the immediate past administration by engaging the services of mercenaries to help the military to crush Boko Harm by December, the deadline given the armed forces to crush the sect.
The Anadolu Agency yesterday quoted an anonymous top military source as saying that Nigeria has engaged South Africa-based private contractor Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection (STTEP).
According to the agency, STTEP is deploying 250 personnel and equipment, including fighter jets in Operation Fire Force, to help Nigeria crush Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast.
But the Director of Defence Information, Rabe Abubakar, rubbished the report as part of a deliberately orchestrated covert action and propaganda aimed at pitching Nigerians against their government and the military, adding that they were part of the blackmail and disinformation from Nigeria’s enemies.
The report is even more damning considering that during the presidential election campaigns, then presidential candidate, Mr. Buhari, a former Head of State and retired army general, had declared the Jonathan administration’s hiring of South African mercenaries as a big shame.
“It is a shame it (military) can’t secure 14 out of 774 local government areas in the country”, Buhari had told elders of the Arewa Consultative Forum in Kaduna in May.
Reacting to the report in a telephone interview with journalists yesterday from Abuja, Abubakar, a colonel in the Nigerian Army, said: “The issue about mercenaries lacks substance; I want you to note that for the past months, the military has been fighting this war more and more effectively and all Nigerians, irrespective of where they live, have come to understand that we are making tremendous progress.
“So, why should some people bring up this idea of bringing in mercenaries? Which mercenaries, from where and to do what?
“You see, all this is part of the usual antics of blackmail by the enemies of Nigeria – those who do not want the progress that the Nigerian military are making and those who are not happy with the successes we are recording.
“They are trying to derail by inciting Nigerians against the Nigerian armed forces.
“There is no nation in the world where such thing (hiring mercenaries while winning a battle) happens.
“We are doing our best and achieving effective results; we don’t need to say it because Nigerians see it and appreciate what we are doing. We will continue to use our soldiers, our officers and all our domestic resources.
“The Nigerian armed forces is doing its best to ensure that we surmount the Boko Haram issue and other allied criminalities; so, such disinformation or blackmail will not deter us from doing what we are supposed to be doing.
“It is not just a lie; it is completely unfounded and baseless.
“We will continue to do our part and our armed forces are capable of dislodging Boko Haram.
“We have done it elsewhere and we will do it in our country”, he said.