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Nigeria Denies Hiring Mercenaries to Fight Boko Haram

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Nigerian soldiers patrol a market after recent violence in areas surrounding Maiduguri, Jan. 27, 2015.

FILE - Nigerian soldiers patrol a market after recent violence in areas surrounding Maiduguri, Jan. 27, 2015.

A spokesman for Nigeria’s government has rejected media reports that President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has hired "white mercenaries" in the ongoing military offensive against the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

Mike Omeri, the director general of Nigeria's National Orientation Agency, said the government has demonstrated a commitment to winning the war on terror, despite sharp criticisms from opponents of the administration.

"This is one of the fictitious commentaries you will get," he said. "The government has reinforced its armed forces by securing additional equipment to enhance their capability. Those who have been deployed to fight are still there fighting [and] none has returned home. We have reports of some of them wounded, you can see them and visit them."

Omeri added that he doesn't know where this is coming from, but he said it seems that "they don’t want us to win this war."

"But what I know is that Nigeria will surprise the world once again by winning this war against the insurgency," he stressed. "We have refused to be swayed away by insinuations and allegations of things that are not true. We remain focused to fight what is our common challenge, and our government remains committed and would not be deterred by this."

He said the offensive against the militants has so far been successful after the military seized control of some of the towns previously held by Boko Haram militants.

He said "a number of areas are being taken and some of the terrorists are taken out in the process." This in turn is diminishing their capacity and degrading their capability, he added.

"Boko Haram [militants] are fleeing the area in various forms, some dressed as women and even disguised in other dressings to attack innocent communities on their way out, out of frustration and anger," said Omeri. "They have also resorted to bombing a few crowded areas here and there, but vigilance is being stepped up to ensure that even that is reduced to minimum."

He said the administration has increased the number of troops stationed in the areas seized from Boko Haram in a bid to restore law and order as well and to protect returning residents who were displaced as a result of the insurgency.

Omeri said residents of the areas seized from Boko Haram would be included in the overall security measure. He said this time around, the security arrangement will be mich more "alert" and will include "not just the troops, but the citizens, volunteers as well as the police and other security agencies."

"How will the citizens be involved? Most people were not paying attention to the happenings around them," he added. "Now, we will encourage citizens to be more alert about their environment and things happening around so they can assist in reporting for the security agencies to carry out the kinds of things put in place to react appropriately."

Critics say the government has been lackadaisical in the fight against Boko Haram. They contend that the surge in military offensive against the militants is yet another demonstration that the administration's effort is politically motivated.

Omeri disagreed.

Cameroon, Chad and Niger have joined forces with Nigeria to launch a joint military offensive against the militants. Boko Haram has often launched cross-border attacks in the neighboring countries.

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