Due to the recent mindless killings of scores of rice farmers in Borno State by suspected Boko Haram terrorists, Governor Babagana Zulum has called for the hiring of foreign mercenaries to beef up the war efforts. The governor reasoned that the deployment of foreign mercenaries will help to dislodge the insurgents believed to be hiding in the shores of the Lake Chad from where they unleash frequent attacks on the state.
Over 67 rice farmers were massacred recently while they were harvesting rice around Koshobe, Marrabati and Hammayya villages near Zabarmari in Jere Local Government Area, less than 25 kilometres from Maiduguri, the state capital. The gruesome massacre of the rice farmers took place in spite of the massive deployment of security operatives in the region. Obviously, Zulum’s call for the engagement of foreign mercenaries in the war against the insurgents is a tacit admission that the current strategies on the war appear not to be working despite government’s claims that they have been ‘technically defeated.’ Zulum’s intervention is an indication that something is missing in the prosecution of the war against terrorism. There is no doubt that the war in the North East region has taken a dangerous dimension in recent weeks following incessant attacks on troops and other residents of Borno State, the epicenter of the war. The general insecurity in the country, especially in the North East and North West has become worrisome. The abduction of hundreds of students in a Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State, shows that all is not well with our security system.
Having survived terrorist’s attacks on two occasions, we do not begrudge Zulum’s foreign mercenaries’ option. Indeed, the heightened sense of insecurity in the North, and Borno State in particular, is a desperate situation that requires an urgent solution. The Federal Government should endeavour to clear the Sambisa forest which is the safe havens for the Boko Haram terrorists, a situation that is partly responsible for the lingering insecurity. However, as threatening as the insecurity is, and as desperate as it is to contain the present danger that Boko Haram poses, we do not subscribe to the idea of engaging foreign mercenaries as Zulum has suggested. It is true that the administration of immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan entered into an agreement with the Chadian President, Idriss Deby, whose armed forces participated in the clearing up the shores of Lake Chad region. It is equally true that South African mercenaries confronted Boko Haram fighters around the Sambisa forest and the Mandara Mountains, a development that paved the way for elections in the affected locations in 2015. It also did not go down well with some Nigerians that President Buhari discontinued with the partnership between Nigeria, Chad and South Africa to decimate the terrorists and bring back peace to the North East and beyond. President Buhari should look for local solutions rather than to recruit foreign fighters against Boko Haram. It was a promise he made during his electioneering in 2015. He should walk the talk.
This is a winnable war provided there is sincerity of purpose and new strategies for engagement. By every measure, this is no longer a conventional warfare. Therefore, it requires a change in military tactics. President Buhari should heed the call to change the service chiefs or give them marching orders to get the desired result within a specified time frame or be sacked. The war against the insurgents must be intensified until victory is achieved. We urge the troops and other stakeholders to work in concert to achieve this goal.