From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has declared that it will not engage mercenaries in its fight against insurgents and other forms of insecurity in the country.
The National Security Adviser, Maj Gen Babagana Monguno (Rtd) said this at third edition of Villa Media Briefing, with focus on the security sector.
The NSA while responding to a question on renewed calls by North-east governors on the federal government to engage foreign mercenaries in routing Boko Haram terrorists in Sambisa forest and other insurgents’ enclaves, said: The President’s view and directive is 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.”
Monguno, also ruled out plans of negotiating with insurgents and bandits, insisting it will suggest weakness and incapacity on the part of government. He added however, that the government will deploy all necessary force to eliminate them.
He said the government would not succumb to blackmail and the use of criminals by proxies to harass innocent citizens.
He said: “While government is not averse to talking with these entities, it also has to fully apply its weight. You can’t (negotiate) with people who are unreliable and who will continue to hurt society. We will apply the full weight of the government to deal with these criminals.
“These are not people looking for anything that is genuine or legitimate, they’re just out to take calculated measures to inflict pain and violence on innocent people. We must deal with them the way they need to be dealt with. We will fully assert the government’s will.
“We are also focusing on the associated dimensions of the banditry and terrorism: Illegal Drugs, the flow of small arms & light weapons, and Illegal mining in places like Zamfara. These are some of the scenarios fueling the violence, and we are already tackling them decisively.”
The NSA also disclosed that between March and December 2020, the military successfully took out 2,403 insurgents in the North East.
On why the government was silent on Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic cleric, who has been calling on government to grant insurgents amnesty, Monguno, he has met and interacted with him briefly in Kaduna at the zonal town hall meeting with service chiefs but that he was still waiting for the cleric to come forth.
He also said the recent changes made by President Buhari to the security architecture “gives us a ray of hope that things will be adjusted, so that whatever we do as regards securing Nigeria will be in conformity with the aspirations of the people.
On external support, the NSA said: “There’s a Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit, comprising US, UK, France working with us and our neighbors. They’ve been supporting us with intelligence. For us what’s most important is acting on the intelligence—that’s why we’re investing in equipment and assets.”