By Ben Agande
About 1,200 Nigerian security personnel including members of the Armed Forces, the police and members of the Department of State Services, DSS, have so far left Abuja for anti-insurgent training in Russia.
Their departure for training as Special Forces, security sources said, followed alleged snub or nonchalant attitude of both the United Kingdom and United States towards Nigeria in her fight against Boko Harm terrorists.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that 400 security personnel left the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in a chattered aircraft at about 5pm weekend, accompanied by top security officers as well as Russian instructors who had been in the country to part of the initial selection process for the officers and men that would take part in the training.
It was further revealed that two other batches of 400 troops each had earlier departed for the training, bringing the total number of officers so far to about 1,200.
Saturday Vanguard had exclusively reported that following the dithering of the some western nations especially, notably Britain and the United States of America over the training of Nigerian security personnel to confront the Boko Haram insurgents, the Federal Government had decided to turn to Russia to meet some of its immediate security needs pending the resolution of the diplomatic difference between Nigeria and the two Western countries.
According to sources the latest batch of Nigerian security personnel are joining three batches of their colleagues who had left for training in Russia earlier this year.
The last group would be in Russia for four months before returning to the countryearly next year to form a nucleus of the Special Forces Brigade to be set up by the country.
A similar scenerio played out when Nigeria faced sanctions following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections won by the late Moshood Abiola by the then Military government led by late General Sani Abacha as the Federal Government turned to China and India for its miltary needs.
The emerging scenario in the fight against terror and the steps Nigeria’s government has taken would have resulted in global sensation during the cold war as the West would have fought to keep her allies to the then Soviet Union as now represented by Russia which has, although, embraced free market economy.
Nigeria, for years, enjoyed close ties with the West and was seen as a US ally. But the seeming nonchalant attitude towards it by its traditional allies has reportedly compelled the country to turn to Russia and China for the training of its military as well as acquisition of military hardware to fight Boko Haram.
However, highly placed military and intelligence sources told Saturday Vanguard in Abuja that the decision to turn to the other two world military powers was an interim measure to roll back the advances made by the Boko Haram insurgents who have gained some grounds in seizing and controlling some towns and villages in the north eastern states of Borno and Adamawa before the latest defeat suffered by the insurgents in the last two weeks due to the increased performance of Nigerian troops, leading to the killing of the insurgents leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Following the increasing sophistication of the tactics employed by the Boko Haram terrorists, the Nigerian government had reportedly approached both the US and British governments to procure arms for its armed forces in order to effectively counter the insurgents but the two governments continued to dither, a situation that might have been responsible for some of the gains recorded by terrorists in recent times.
A senior security official told Saturday Vanguard: “the United States and Britain appear unwilling to provide arms to our armed forces. It is surprising because these are two friendly countries to Nigeria which is under threat from terrorists. We have no option but to look somewhere else for our needs pending when the issues are resolved at the diplomatic level by our government.”
However, Russia which has always been willing to supply weapons and some other logistics to Nigeria when other western countries are not forthcoming readily accepted the Nigerian proposal as the Nigeria Air Force, NAF, has several Russian fighter jets in its fleet.
Already, Nigeria has entered into contract with Russian arms manufacturers for the supply of high calibre weapons to the Nigerian Army to combat the insurgents in the North east and has also begun discussion with the Israeli government on possible supply of military hardware.
“When the Chief of Army staff said recently that the Nigerian army would soon take possession of weapons that would reverse the trend in the North east, he was referring to the deal between Nigeria and some Russian arms manufacturers. We are also in discussion with Israeli companies. We don’t want to be held ransom by our traditional allies. That is why we are expanding our sources of supply,” the source said.