Senior military commanders have dispelled recent media rumours that Nigeria is deploying hundreds of mercenaries against Boko Haram terrorists, describing the information as a joke taken too far.
According to the officers, the foreigners are technical advisers that are providing trainings and instructions on the use of new armaments recently procured by the Nigerian military in the war against insurgents.
Speaking with PRNigeria, some top commanders insisted that it is part of propaganda to paint Nigerian Army as incompetent to deal with the insurgency by desperately ascribing recent spate of successes to ‘others’ rather than the gallant troops’ efforts.
The anonymous source also recalled that recently some news agencies ascribed such successes to Cameroonian, Nigerien and Chadian forces while it was obvious that the forces of those countries were mainly fighting along their own border blocking free movement of terrorist.
READ ALSO: New Offensive Against Boko Haram
The source further cited the particular example of the maintenance technician, who died recently, stressing that he was not even a combatant but a professional in fixing armour vehicles.
President Goodluck Jonathan in his interview with Voice of America confirmed that Nigeria has some trainers helping to get troops well acquainted with the recently acquired weapons.
“We now have this technical people who are trainers and technicians, who are to train our people on how to use them, and technicians that help the maintenance, at the same time training our people how to maintain this equipment,” the president said.
The source added with regrets, that Nigeria wasted several years while negotiating and appealing for equipment supply from the Western allies which were not only rebuffed but prevented other countries from selling to Nigeria.
“The fact that we have foreign experts outside the United States helping to train our troops is not a secret but it is not fair for them to embark on this blackmail simply because we got assistance from other places when they turned us down at a critical period”, the source said.
When asked to comment on the claim that mercenaries are fighting against terrorism in Nigeria, the Director Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said
“Sorry, I don’t have anything about that claim. I just know that Nigerian military and security forces are putting in all their resources, training and experience acquired over the years to address the security challenges.
READ ALSO: Adamawa State Now Free From Boko Haram
“Our neighbours operating under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force are also backing our efforts from all our borders with them. We also have some offer of training and intelligence assistance from foreign countries. Some of these arrangements even predate the present operations.”
South African Government Concerned
The South African government in its turn expresses concern that its nationals may be working as mercenaries in Nigeria in the war against the Boko Haram terrorists.
Although Nigerian government spokesman, Mike Omeri, told the BBC that foreigners were just training troops in the use of new weapons, the South African government worried that the men may be involved in fighting.
According to BBC, the presence of South African mercenaries was first reported by a South African newspaper in January. However, speculation intensified after a photograph that appeared on Twitter last week showing a white man in a khaki T-shirt and body armour, next to a heavy-calibre machine gun.
The location of the photo was identified as Maiduguri in north-east of Nigeria.
It would be recalled that a former South African Defence Force Koevoet operator was killed in a friendly fire incident when a Nigerian tank devastated the mistaken target on March 9.
Meanwile, Boko Haram has planned to launch ethnic reprisal attacks against Arabic speakers in northern Nigeria. According to some military officers and residents, the Islamist sect accused Arabic speakers of helping Chad’s army in their onslaught against the terrorists.