*Says he would be willing to return to assist Nigeria’s counter-insurgency efforts but not as a sub-contractor
*We’re willing to help Nigeria, but there are political interests
Senator Iroegbu and Godsgift Onyedinefu
There was a report by PRNigeria and Global Sentinel as well as other media organisations that some foreign Military contractors also known as mercenaries have expressed readiness to help Nigeria defeat the over-a-decade old war against Boko Haram insurgency, but that President Muhammadu Buhari Administration is not willing to contract them due to political and foreign interests.
This followed the recent spate of killings perpetuated by Boko Haram terrorists, notably the massacre of more than 43 rice farmers in Koshobe, Zabarmari rice field, in Borno State, North East Nigeria.
Since then, there has been calls for the Federal government to hire and rehire mercenaries to combat the insurgents.
Recall that the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, had brought in ‘military-technical advisers’ suspected to be mercenaries from South Africa to take on Boko Haram ahead of the national election in 2015. They helped the Nigerian military to successfully push back the insurgents and recover swaths of territories to ensure there was election across the country including the hitherto Boko Haram controlled parts of the North East Nigeria.
Global Sentinel earlier reported that the foreign military contractors engaged by Nigeria to help in the counter insurgency operations have vowed never to return, saying it was a “bad business because the government could not stick to the agreement.
Reacting to the development, Eeben Barlow, former Chairman of Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection,(STTEP), however restated his willingness to return to Nigeria, but said neither him nor STTEP have been contacted by government. He also said he would not want to return to Nigeria a subcontractor due to numerous reasons.
According to Barlow, who is now the Chairman of Executive Outcomes, STTEP was not the prime contractor and hence, did not concern themselves with political decisions. He also debunked any link with alleged ‘Russian-affiliated mercenaries’.
He stressed that “whereas it is a government’s prerogative to contract whoever they feel will add value to any security operations”, he is “unaware of Russian contractors being associated with, or linked to us as your article alludes. It is possible that Russians were also under contract by the Nigerian government, but they were certainly not known to us or anywhere in our sphere of operations”.
Barlow continued: “Insofar as STTEP is concerned, the company was a subcontractor to the prime contractor. In that sense, there were two companies, but they were not ‘covertly’ contracted as your article implies.
“There was one facilitator to the contract, and that was the prime contractor. Not a single person from STTEP has ‘…bemoaned the humiliations, persecutions and prosecutions…’ as the story alleges.
Furthermore, as a subcontractor, we did not engage with or interface with the government or any other member of the state, apart from senior military officers, who at all times, were helpful and supportive. I did indeed voice my frustration that verified intelligence was at times discarded for political ends.”
In the letter he signed and sent to Global sentinel dated December 4, 2020, indicated that there may be some political interests that do not want the war to end. Barlow restated his frustration over that fact that verified intelligence was at times discarded for political ends during his operation in Nigeria.
Barlow had in an interview with Al Jazeera in January 2020, hinted are that the Boko Haram terrorists which ravaged Nigeria for over a decade may have been aided by the actions of the United States under President Barrack Obama administration.
He also noted that the US had interfered to had contract terminated and operations against the Boko Haram terrorists aborted.
Also Barlow had in a Facebook in 2018, in the wake of the attack on Nigerian soldiers by the Boko Haram splinter group, the Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) in Metele, Borno State, which left over 100 soldiers dead, regretted that President Buhari government had rejected intelligence warnings about operations of Boko Haram terrorists in parts of the North East Nigeria.
Also part Barlow’s recent letter to Global Sentinel reads: “It is, however, on record that I said there will be no return to Nigeria as a subcontractor due to numerous reasons.
“It is no secret that the company, and I as person, had become a political stumbling block to the incoming administration in Nigeria and certain foreign interests. However, the contract was stipulated as a three-month contract.
“That was the period of time we spent in Nigeria. Extending the contract or not was a prerogative that lay with the Nigerian government.”
“It is a government’s prerogative to contract whoever they feel will add value to any security operations”, he added, while informing that his company was reactivated again on request of some African governments.
The Chairman of the Executive Outcomes further clarified that the operation was not covert, adding that STTEP was a subcontractor to the prime contractor.
“It is possible that Russians were also under contract by the Nigerian government, but they were certainly not known to us or anywhere in our sphere of operations.
“In that sense, there were two companies, but they were not ‘covertly’ contracted”, he said.