The Nigerian government has not hired any foreign mercenaries in its battle to defeat the Boko Haram insurgents, an official said on Sunday.
Mike Omeri, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, stated this on Sunday when he paid a courtesy call to PREMIUM TIMES head office in Abuja.
The official’s statement comes amidst reports that the Nigerian military hired mercenaries from South Africa and other countries since the renewed offensive against the insurgents began on February 14. Several territories initially captured by the insurgents have since been retaken by Nigerian soldiers working with soldiers from neighbouring West African countries. Mr. Omeri said a lot of Nigerians mistake consultants helping in the deployment and use of newly acquired military hardware as mercenaries.
“When our weapons were acquired recently, we needed training because training component came with the people who supplied these weapons,” he said. “It is therefore easy to see a white man where these things are happening like in Maiduguri and elsewhere and conclude that we have mercenaries.”
“What we have are trainers who came from security companies to help us manage and learn how to use some of the much more modern weapons because there is no time; we are in a war situation and we need the capability to use the weapons immediately.”
Mr. Omeri, who coordinates the National Information Centre, where Nigerians are briefed on the progress made in the fight against Boko Haram, also questioned why some Nigerians appeared more concerned with the presence of mercenaries to the neglect of the insurgency.
“Why are we leaving the issue of fighting insurgency and concentrating on the issue of mercenaries, when the use of mercenaries by governments the world over, including the United States has been on since the 1840s,” he said.
“Mercenaries such as the foreign legion in France, Gurkhas in the UK, and even the US Marines are foreigners. They are mercenaries. It is at the completion of their terms that they are made either citizens through green cards or passports.
“They recruit them give them very hard training and send them to the toughest of battles and they are mostly foreigners.” Mr. Omeri said the Nigerian government has not hired any mercenary, despite having the right to do so.
“If Nigeria wants to recruit mercenaries, there are legitimate ways of doing it and this government knows how to do it and it would have gone that way to do it and to inform citizens appropriately,” he said.