*No helping Nigeria again — Mercenary group
*Boko Haram no longer collecting tax from citizens — Lai Mohammed
*CSOs demand new security approach, sack of service chiefs
*Why House of Reps still engage with service chiefs — Spokesman
By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Gabriel Ewepu & Luminous Jannamike
The Defence Headquarters said yesterday that the decision to engage mercenaries to assist the military in defeating the Boko Haram insurgency is that of the Federal Government.
It noted that the security forces cannot challenge the initiative, stressing that it is up to Nigerians and the government to contract the private army.
This came on a day PR Nigeria reported that foreign military contractors earlier engaged by the government to help deal with the insurgents vowed never to return because of the ill-treatment meted to them by the Buhari government.
This is just as Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday in Lagos that citizens in the North East are no longer paying tax to Boko Haram.
Also yesterday, Civil Society Organsations, CSOs, demanded immediate sack of service chiefs and a new security approach by the Federal Government, following the beheading of 43 rice farmers at Koshobe village in Zabarmari area of Borno State.
Following the killing of the rice farmers last Saturday, Borno State governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, had called for engagement of mercenaries to assist the military in routing out Boko Haram insurgents not just from his state, but in the entire North-East.
In the same manner, North East Governors Forum also pleaded with the Federal Government to accede to the request of Governor Zulum.
Engaging mercenaries, a high-level call — DHQ
But during the weekly briefing on security operations in the country yesterday, the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major-General John Enenche, said the military had no business debating the issue, adding that it was diligently prosecuting the war against insurgency and focused on victory.
“Request or proposal to engage mercenaries, that is at a very high level. The kind of armed forces and security agencies you have now is normally determined by the people.
“It (engagement of mercenaries) is not in our powers. It is a kind of force package; it is what the government wants. It is not for the military to begin to contend.
“No armed forces anywhere will tell the people, ‘this is how we want to operate.’ The legislators, National Security Council, will decide on it,” Enenche said.
Asked if the military was overstretched and overwhelmed as stated by the Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi, on Wednesday, Enenche said it was for the authorities to decide if this was true.
He said: “It is not for the military to say we are overstretched; I am not overstretched. If I say, I am overstretched, that means I don’t want to work. And if I say, I am not overstretched, that means, I am under-utilised.”
He said the armed forces and other security agencies have continued to deal deadly blows to insurgents and bandits in the North-East and North-West.
No helping Nigeria again — Mercenary group
However, as the Borno State governor was mulling the engagement of mercenaries to help in the war against Boko Haram, facilitators of the foreign military contractors, according to PR Nigeria, have vowed not to return to the country
During the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria had covertly brought in ‘military-technical advisers’ suspected to be mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union to take on Boko Haram, ahead of the national election in 2015.
Several regional security, defence and diplomatic sources were aware of the development at the time, including a tacit confirmation by President Jonathan that two companies were providing “trainers and technicians” to help Nigerian forces.
PRNigeria quoted one of the facilitators of the mercenaries as bemoaning the humiliations, persecutions and prosecutions of foreign mercenaries along with their Nigerian counterparts who participated in the operation after the emergence of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said: “In fact, some of our covert operations and activities of operatives in Nigeria, including incurred casualties, were exposed as working for mercenaries.
“Imagine that even highly classified and coded transactions for operational purposes were exposed as corruption.”
While noting that some of their payments for operations executed are still outstanding, the facilitator, on condition of anonymity, told PR Nigeria: “It’s easier to confirm what we did because we were able to recover dozens of towns from Boko Haram from at least three states in North-East at the time. This is an open secret.”
He expressed regret and disappointment that some Nigerian military and intelligence officers who participated in the operation were not only retired but also prosecuted and convicted.
He stated that the mercenaries found it difficult to work in a country where their operations, strategy and thinking were exposed to the media and judicial processes.
The secret agent confirmed that top government officials at federal and state levels were reaching out to them but reiterated their resolve not to come back.
Meanwhile, founder of Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection, STTEP, Eeben Barlow, revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari stopped them from carrying on fighting Boko-Haram terrorists in Nigeria in 2015.
In a post on social media, Barlow said their proposal was antagonised and politicised by Buhari and his team “even before they assumed office.”
He said: “The initial three-phase campaign strategy (known as ‘Operational Anvil’) to degrade and destroy BH in Borno State, was rejected by his advisors.”
Barlow further stated that the company was willing to stay back in the North-East but noted that the President “made it known that the company’s presence would not be tolerated under his office.”
Nigerians no longer paying tax to B-Haram — Lai Mohammed
In a related development, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday that citizens in North East were n longer paying tax to Boko Haram.
Speaking at a meeting with the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigerian, NPAN, Mohammed said the occupation of territories in the country by insurgents was now “a thing of the past”.
He said the insurgents were no longer having a field day because of the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister said: “Now, let’s put things in context. Before the President assumed office, Boko Haram could stroll into any city, especially in the north, to carry out deadly attacks.
“Abuja, the nation’s capital, Kano, Maiduguri, Jos, Damaturu, etc were regularly targeted. Motor parks, churches, mosques, shopping complexes were not spared. Today, that is a thing of the past.
“Suicide bombers used to have a field day detonating their bombs and killing innocent people.
Today, that is no longer the case. Detonating Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, used to be a deadly tactic of Boko Haram. Today, that has changed.
“Boko Haram used to occupy territory, deposing and installing emirs and collecting taxes. That’s no longer the case. These changes are not mere happenstance. They are part of the successes recorded by the military, under this President.”
Noting those asking the President to resign over insecurity were “playing dirty politics’’, Lai Mohammed said: “In the wake of the killing (of rice farmers in Borno, there have been calls in some quarters for Mr. President to resign.
“Well, let me say here that this call amounts to playing dirty politics with the issue of security, and it is cheap and irresponsible.
“The President was elected in 2015 for a four-year term and re-elected in 2019 for another four-year term. No amount of hysterical calls for resignation will prevent him from serving out his term.”
Mohammed also said calling on the President to resign every time there was a setback in the war on terror “is a needless distraction and cheap politicking”
CSOs demand sack of service chiefs
Similarly, Civil Society Orgsanisations, CSOs, yesterday expressed sadness over the killing of the 43 rice farmers in Borno and demanded the sack of service chiefs and new security approach to protect lives and property across the country.
Speaking on the horror unleashed on innocent rice farmers, the Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Arc Nnimmo Bassey, said: “The violence against farmers and fishermen is both shocking and reprehensible. This is a crime against humanity!
“The lives of Nigerians matter. The government has to wake up to its responsibility of ensuring that there is security of life in the country. How much do the security chiefs have to fail before they are replaced?
“Must the blood of Nigerians flow knee deep from Sokoto to Calabar and from Maiduguri to Lagos before government acts?
“I fully agree that our farmers may have to stay away from farms if that is the only way to protect their lives. No one can be forced to go to be slaughtered like rams. This is sickening. I agree with the farmers that there can be no food security without security of life.
“The first response I expect from President Buhari is to ease off the service chiefs. There must be officers with ideas other than the failed ones. There must be a sense that action is being taken. This, clearly, is no time for platitudes.
“The first response I expect from President Buhari is to tell off the service chiefs. There must be officers with ideas other than the failed ones. There must be a sense that action is being taken. This, clearly, is no time for platitudes.”
‘Criminal gangs now in charge’
The Convener, Concerned Nigerians, CN Deji Adeyanju, said in his reaction: “President Buhari has conceded most of our territorial integrity to criminal gangs; Abuja-Kaduna Expressway to bandits; parts of Middle Belt; North East to Boko Haram as they are largely in control.
“A situation the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, is asking farmers not to go to their farms unless they get clearance from the military, shows the body language of the President.
“He has resigned that the service chiefs have no clues about what is happening. All their mates have long retired and they have been service chiefs for five years and they have failed again and again, and the President obviously has no solution.
“We have seen how bandits have abducted policemen in the country. If bandits can adopt policemen, is it farmers bandits would not abduct?
“It is just unfortunate what is going on in the country. There is practically no sign that there is a government or President in the country.”
The Founder and President, Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria, PMNN, Yahaya Ndu, said: “Yes, it is most unfortunate that the government of Nigeria has failed woefully as far as security of lives and properties of Nigerians is concerned..
“However what we, at the Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria PMNN, find more unfortunate is that the leaders of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria, including the religious leaders and the traditional rulers and institutions and not excluding the women, youth groups and professional groups, have also failed in living up to their civic responsibilities as citizens and as human beings.
“Though it is true that the government has the responsibility for security of lives and properties, citizens also share in this responsibility. Where government fails to provide power, all who can afford it is providing power for themselves.
“Over 95 per cent of Nigerians provide their own water, and others. What stops Nigerian citizens from at least trying to provide their own security. Does it mean that if government refuses or fails to provide security for lives and properties the citizens should fold their arms and be slaughtered like chickens? No!
“We are calling on Nigerians to put on their thinking caps and strive to come up with initiatives for the protection of their lives and properties.”
Why House of Reps still engages service chiefs — Spokesman
Meanwhile, spokesman of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, said yesterday that the National Assembly was engaging with the service chiefs because they were still serving the nation.
It will be recalled that the House had since taken a resolution asking President Muhammadu Buhari to sack them.
The Senate had also done same, especially following the recent killing of over 43 rice farmers in Zarbamari village, Borno State.
Briefing journalists on the invitation of the President by the House to give details of the security situation in the country, Kalu said the issue would be much central to the engagement.
He said: “The service chiefs will be one of the issues the House will discuss with the President. We are looking for solutions. It’s not about the visit of the President, it’s about solution seeking mechanism. We are looking for strategies that will help us find solutions.
“The visit of the President happens to be one of them. What will it afford the House? What we want from him is to do an analysis of the security sector. Mr President, what are your strengths and your weaknesses so far?
“We think these are your weaknesses. If we believe that not changing the service chiefs is a weakness, we will mention it as well. Mr President, what are your threats? How can we help with these threats to convert them to opportunities? For example, declaring a state of emergency on security.
“We will lay everything on the table for him to see, so that he will know what we think based on what they informed us at our constituencies. It’s going to be a discussion.
“Why are we still engaging the service chiefs? Because they are still serving the nation. We can’t boycott them. If you don’t engage them, you are doing a disservice to the nation and to the citizens. It means they are on the frolic of their own and no one is asking questions.
“The right thing is keep engaging with them and keep asking Mr President to tell you why that’s the best strategy to curb the security problems in the country.”
Dropping a hint on when the President was likely to come, the House spokesperson tentatively put the time next week.
“As the speaker said yesterday (Wednesday), it will be out of place since we were not summoning. When you summon, you give date and time but this is back-channel diplomacy, legislative diplomacy.
“We are not compelling, we are inviting and when you invite, you rub minds to find out the availability of the person you’re inviting. That was what the leadership did yesterday (Wednesday).
“They engaged with Mr President and instead of mandating him to appear on a particular-day, they rubbed minds on when it will be convenient for him to appear and he accepted.
“We have an estimate of when we think it’s going to be. In every matter of urgent public importance, time is of the essence and based on that and in the wisdom of the President, he’s not delaying but prioritizing on it.
“So, security is top on his agenda at the moment and that’s why in the course of next week since we just finished today, I’m sure he will be able to adjust his programs. I know Tuesday may not be feasible because we have NEC meeting. So we are looking at Thursday or upper Tuesday. The date is not yet definite,” Kalu said.