In recent weeks, there have been reports about a regional alliance between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin through a Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) with the aim wiping out the dreaded Boko Haram sect.
There are fresh reports that about a hundred South African mercenaries are also ‘actively’ involved in the Nigerian offensive against Boko Haram insurgents in the north east region.
According to PM News report, the mercenaries, who are said to be former soldiers of the SA Defence Force, may not be in Nigeria legally, as the country’s defence minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has said they should be arrested on their return to the country.
“There are consequences when somebody leaves the country and provides any form of military assistance that is not part of the government’s deployment,” the minister was quoted as saying.
A South African daily newspaper, Beeld, claimed Nigeria requested for the ‘mercenaries’ who had been involved in conflicts in Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone using back channels.
The South African Act of Military Assistance Abroad prevents its citizens from participating in wars in other countries, unless they are acting under the authority of the government in Pretoria.
Some of the South Africans mercenaries are said to be involved in training Nigerian air force pilots and carrying out air strikes against the insurgents position.
They are also involved with ground troops, Nigerian military sources said.
A security source, who craved anonymity said that it is true South African pilots have trained and are still training Nigerian pilots who have so far recorded victories in recent operations in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states after they carried air raids in Boko Haram hideouts.
“Nigeria has recently procured modern military hardware, including fighter jets and armoured vehicles. But some of the equipments are so sophisticated that both our ground troops and the Air Force cannot operate them without substantial training, which will take some time.”
“This is basically what made the deployment of the South African experts inevitable, in view of the fact that Nigeria was running out of time and there was the urgent need to substantially address the Boko Haram problem. The top military hierarchy and the Federal Government are trying to revamp our image which is at a record low, especially going by unprecedented breakthroughs recorded by troops from neighbouring countries,” the source explained.
It was learnt that the Nigerian Air Force successfully repelled some Boko Haram enclaves around Gulani and Gujba in Yobe State, the Damboa general area, including Alagarno, fringes of the notorious Sambisa Forest as well as parts of Maiduguri, Mafa, Dikwa in Borno State and around Michika in Adamawa State with the technical support of the South African pilots.
Report also has it that military experts, mostly from Eastern Europe, are among other foreign specialists assisting Nigerian troops.
The spokesman for the Defence Headquarters, Major General Chris Olukolade was quoted as saying: “It is well known that terrorism being an international and trans/cross border menace calls for the involvement of all well-meaning countries all over the world.”
The Boko Haram insurgency which used to be a Nigerian problem has assumed a new dimension and is now affecting neighbouring countries. In recent times, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have fallen victims to Boko Haram attacks.
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