By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari will not engage mercenaries in the ongoing fight against insurgency, banditry and other violent crimes across the country.
Retired Maj.-Gen Babagana Munguno, the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President, made the position of the government known at the third edition of Villa Media Briefing on Thursday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the briefing focused on the nation’s security challenges and efforts of the government towards restoring peace to troubled areas.
House of Representatives had, on March 10, asked the Federal Government to hire foreign mercenaries to combat Boko Haram insurgents.
The North-East Governors Forum had made similar call on the Federal Government to consider engaging foreign fighters in the war against insurgents in the country.
Monguno, while dismissing the calls, declared that the nation had enough and well-trained personnel and resources to execute the anti-terror war.
He said: “The President’s view and directive is that we will not engage mercenaries when we have our own people to deal with these problems.
“This is basically a presidential directive. And there are so many issues when it comes to the issue of mercenaries. It has to do with the issue of national pride also.
“I know you would say, can pride be more of a concern than our security? I do understand that.
“But what we are looking at here is that we have the resources. It is just misapplication or underutilisation that has affected our ability to deal with these people
“The President has given a new lease of life to the Armed Forces and I believe that we should be able to overcome these people without resulting to help from mercenaries.”
The NSA also insisted that the Federal Government would not negotiate with insurgents, bandits or kidnappers, saying that such action might suggest weakness and incapacity on the part of government.
According to him, the government will, however, deploy all necessary force to win the war against insurgency and banditry.
Monguno said that the government would not succumb to blackmail and the use of criminals by proxies to harass innocent citizens.
He said: “While government is not averse to talking with these entities, it also has to fully apply its weight. You can’t negotiate with people who are unreliable and who will continue to hurt society.
“We will apply the full weight of the government to deal with these criminals.
“These are not people looking for anything that is genuine or legitimate, they’re just out to take calculated measures to inflict pain and violence on innocent people.
“We must deal with them the way they need to be dealt with. We will fully assert the government’s will.
“We are also focusing on the associated dimensions of the banditry and terrorism like illegal drugs, the flow of small arms and light weapons, and illegal mining in places like Zamfara.
“These are some of the scenarios fueling the violence and we are already tackling them.”
The NSA also disclosed that between March and December 2020, the military successfully took out 2,403 insurgents in the North East.
On the call on government to grant amnesty to bandits and kidnappers by Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, Monguno said that no formal presentation had been made to the Federal Government to grant such request.
He, however, acknowledged that he met and interacted with the cleric briefly in Kaduna at the zonal town hall meeting with service chiefs and was still waiting for him (Gumi) to come forth.
Monguno expressed the hope that the recent changes made by President Buhari to the security architecture would serve as a game changer in the fight against insurgency and banditry in the country.
On the reported re-emergence of Boko Haram elements along Nasarawa/Benue border, the NSA disclosed that many suspects had been arrested in connection with the incident.