Worried by the increasing of loss of men suffered by the Nigerian military in the war against the Boko Haram terror group, President Muhammadu Buhari has given approval for the recall of the South African mercenaries hired by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan to help rout the terrorists.
A source in the Presidency told the Nigerian Times that the spate of losses in men and materiel suffered by the Nigerian Armed forces in battle against the insurgents has given not only the hierarchy of the military serious concern but is equally giving President Buhari sleepless night.
In the last three weeks about 20 Nigerian soldiers have been killed in battle with the insurgents with 83 still missing. Only last weekend the terrorists ambushed troops of the Nigerian army killing seven of them including a colonel said by the military high command to be one of the bravest soldiers in the army.
“The losses suffered by our men in battle, has caused the president to give in to demands by the military top brass to seek external assistance in routing the terrorists,” our source said.
The source disclosed that President Buhari reluctantly agreed to the demand because it meant he would be swallowing his vomit after he and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had ridiculed the last administration for lacking ideas on how to win the war by their decision to hire mercenaries in January 2015.
The source disclosed that agents of the Nigerian government are already in South African negotiating with Colonel Eeben Barlow, head and founder of STTEP (Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection).
Under Jonathan, Barlow, a former member of the South African Defence Force, which fought liberation movements in South Africa and the Southern African region, had come to Nigeria with around 100 men to Nigeria made up of black troopers who served in elite units of the South African military as well as communist guerrillas who had fought against the South African Defence Force in the heydays of Apartheid.
They had initially been recruited by the Nigerian government to help locate and free the kidnapped Chibok girls but had become involved in fending off and routing the insurgents. By the time the Jonathan administration handed over to Buhari, Barlow and his men had helped the Nigerian military reclaim swathes of Nigerian territory taken over by the insurgents.
Using tactics, which Barlow described as relentless pursuit, which involved using hit and run tactics to unsettle the terrorists, and bush trackers to establish the terrorists’ hideouts, the mercenaries wore them out and depleted their ranks.
The termination of their contract by the Buhari administration turned the tide in favour of the terrorists, who despite claims by the Buhari administration that they had been “technically degraded”, continued to inflict grievous harm on the Nigerian military.
“The President has ordered the military to pull their socks up and save his government further embarrassment. While agreeing to their demand to bring in the mercenaries, he has given them a specific time within which the mercenaries should operate within Nigerian territory. More importantly, he has warned them to ensure that only those who need to know of the presence of the group in Nigeria, should be privy to this development,” our source said.
As the military awaits the arrival of Barlow and his men, a source within the military has disclosed to this paper that the morale of Nigerian troops in the battlefield is beginning to ebb as the insurgency launch offensive after offensive, which often result in heavy casualties for the Nigerian side. He said the presence of the mercenaries most of whom are battle hardened veterans in their 60s, would help lift their spirits and rejuvenate them for battle.