From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja, Noah Ebije, Kaduna, Christopher Oji and Lukman Olabiyi
Mixed reactions, yesterday, trailed Federal Government’s decision not to engage mercenaries in the fight against insurgency, banditry and sundry security challenges.
Both the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) declined to comment. When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of ACF, Emmanuel Yawe, said he needed the approval of the chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh, promising to get back to our Correspondent, which he never did at press time.
Chairman of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdullahi nor the spokesman, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, picked phone calls put across to them for their comments on the issue.
However, security experts interviewed disagreed on the isuue. Former Director of the State Security Service (SSS) and Managing Director, Zoomlens Security Solution, Mr Danis Amachere, said he would never support the use of those he described as fortune soldiers.
“Inviting them will demoralise our soldiers. Our soldiers will not be happy. I know that during former president Goodluck Jonathan’s time, he invited them from South Africa and they pushed the insurgents far into Sambisa forest but it is not the best. My position is for the Federal Government to use the money they will use to invite expensive mercenaries to equip and invest on our soldiers.”
Similarly, MD of Strict Guard Security, Lagos, Mr Bone Chinye Efosiem, advised the FG not to invite mercenaries.
“Mercenaries fight for the highest bidder and not for the interest of the country that invited them. Again, the country security architecture will be seriously compromised because they would have studied our internal security. The internal security architecture will seriously be at risk. They fight and go and another country can still hire them.”
Regardless, retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Don Iroham, said there was nothing wrong if the FG invite mercenaries to flush out insurgents and bandits.
“There is no country that is all sufficient. Even Israel do invite mercenaries. Saying that we should not invite mercenaries is like saying our security agents should stop going for training abroad. There are things that we lack that we should get or learn from others.”
In his own view, security consultant and Risk Operations Control of Chiguard Services Nig Ltd, Obuikem Chibuzo, said government’s position showed absolute confidence in the security workforce.
Speaking at the third edition of Villa Media Briefing, yesterday, National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd), had declared that Federal Government would not engage mercenaries in its fight against insurgents and other forms of insecurity in the country.
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, he 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 government would not succumb to blackmail and the use of criminals by proxies to harass innocent citizens.
“The new direction of government is to come out with full force. 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.
“That 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.
“In dealing with this issue, government realises the tangential, auxiliary organisations to key in both the issue of drugs coming in and smuggling of arms and light weapons.
“As a result of what I said about delivering maximum force, the weight of our security organisations, does that obviate the need for us to use soft approach.
“We are ready to dialogue with these people but for us, it’s not a priority. We can’t be singing the same song everyday and these people are unreliable.”