Onwuka Nzeshi and Lawrence Olaoye
Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, has asked the Federal Government to consider the recruitment of foreign mercenaries to help in tackling the worsening insecurity challenge posed by Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East.
Zulum made the suggestion when he received a Federal Government delegation that visited Borno State to commiserate with him and the people of the state over last Saturday’s killing of 43 farmers by suspected members of Boko Haram.
The mass murder of the rice farmers took place in Zabarmari community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State. The victims were buried on Sunday.
The Federal Government’s delegation, which was led by the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, included the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj- Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd).
Apparently disappointed with the efforts of the Nigeria Armed Forces in the fight against Boko Haram, Zulum urged President Muhamnadu Buhari to explore the option of recruiting mercenaries to tackle the challenge decisively.
The governor also made other key recommendations to the Federal Government on how to bring the insurgency to an end.
“One of our recommendations as possible solutions to end the insurgency is the immediate recruitment of our youths into military and paramilitary services to complement the efforts of the Nigerian forces.
“Our second recommendation is to engage the services of our immediate neighbours, especially the government of Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic, in clearing the remnants of Boko Haram hiding in the shores of the Lake Chad.
“Our third recommendation is for him to engage the services of the mercenaries to clear the entire Sambisa forest. “Our fourth recommendation is for him to provide the police and the military, with armed resistant armoured personnel carriers and other related equipment.”
It would be recalled that the Goodluck Jonathan administration had, at some point, employed the services of foreign mercenaries, including South Africans, in the fight against Boko Haram. The mercenaries are believed to have contributed to the successes the military recorded in the build up to the 2015 general election.
However, President Buhari terminated the security contract with the mercenaries, promising to equip the Nigeria Armed Forces to defeat the insurgents. In the meantime, President Buhari has ordered the Nigerian Armed Forces to take the fight to the Boko Haram insurgents in their enclave and hit them hard until they were flushed out of Nigeria.
Buhari, who spoke through his Chief of Staff, Prof. Gambari, said the current administration places high premium on the security of lives and, therefore, national security would remain a priority.
In a message delivered on behalf of the President, Gambari expressed the condolences of the government and people of Nigeria to the government and people of Borno State.
The President gave strong assurances of his continuous commitment to fighting insurgency and all forms of insecurity in Borno State and all over Nigeria. He pledged commitment to making more resources available to the military to prosecute the war, adding that he will “work closely with neighbouring countries on bilateral and multilateral levels to ensure that there is no hiding place for the terrorists.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring the security of lives and property of the people. Everything is secondary when security is at a stake. “As we mourn the loss of our sons in Zabarmari, the Armed Forces have been given the marching order to take the fight to the insurgents, not on a one-off, but on a continuous basis until we root out the terrorists,” he said.
The presidential delegation also visited the palace of the Shehu of Borno, His Eminence Abubakar Umar Ibn Garbai, during which the traditional ruler described the gruesome killings as “madness” and urged his subjects to pray and offer useful information to the security agencies. He thanked the President for his efforts in returning normalcy to the state.
“Before this administration came, all 27 local councils and the Emirs had migrated to Maiduguri. We had no power from the National Grid, telephone services were discontinued and the airport was closed,” he said, commending the President for changing all that for the better. The delegation was also in Zabarmari, Jere Local Government where the incident took place.
The local Imam, Alhaji Idris, who responded on behalf of the community, said they were touched by the President’s gesture, saying, “We are happy that the President is with us in our moment of grief. Tell him that we are very happy with him.”
Meanwhile, some residents of Zabarmari have claimed that the killing of rice farmers would not have happened if the Nigerian military had taken the necessary actions after they were informed of the impending attack.
One of the survivors, who gave his name as Abubakar Salihu, said they sensed danger after they arrested one of the Boko Haram terrorists and handed him to the security operatives.
“We informed military beforehand that our members sighted Boko Haram in large numbers, but nothing was done about it.
“It was a sad day for us in Zabarmari; it could have been averted, but the military failed to act on the information we gave them,” he said. Mohammed Alhaji, a rice farmer, said the victims were busy in their rice farms when the insurgents summoned them to the place where they were slaughtered.
“It was a deliberate act to ensure that we do not harvest our farm produce. We need the Federal Government to assist us and secure our lives,” he said.
Other members of the delegation included House or Representatives’ Majority Whip, Tahir Monguno; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Bello; Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami; Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri; Minister of State for Works and Housing, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu and Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.