A South African mercenary who fought Boko Haram jihadists in Nigeria spoke out on Sunday against President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the Islamist insurgency, blaming “poor political decisions” for an upsurge in violence.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday, Eeben Barlow criticised Buhari for claiming that Boko Haram is “technically defeated” and said the jihadists are “causing numerous casualties and capturing massive amounts of equipment and ammunition”.
The former South African Defence Force commander said that Buhari’s government cut short his contract after his company STTEP — which stands for Specialised Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection — helped reclaim swathes of territory back from Boko Haram at the peak of the nine-year Islamist insurgency in 2015.
“Pressure forced only a small part of the campaign to be successfully implemented before we were ordered to pack up and leave,” Barlow said.
“Many of the men we trained as part of 72 Mobile Strike Force have remained in contact with us (STTEP), pleading for our return to Nigeria,” he said.
“They have also told us that they have been used to a point of exhaustion.”
Despite Buhari’s government saying that Boko Haram is close to defeat, the jihadists have led a number of assaults against the military in recent months, highlighting their continued threat to Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad region.
“Northeastern Nigeria is an example of what can happen when intelligence is rejected in favour of a false narrative,” Barlow said.
“Don’t blame the armed forces when poor political decisions result in the deaths of people.”
Barlow’s statement comes after troops fighting on the frontlines of the conflict released a video claiming at least 100 soldiers died in a recent attack on a base in Metele.
It underscored growing desperation among troops, who in June protested at being redeployed to the remote Lake Chad region after fighting for years without relief.
The Nigerian military broke its silence late on Friday evening to confirm that the Metele base had been attacked on November 18, but did not give a death toll.
AFP has reported at least 17 attempts to overrun army bases since July.
Many have been claimed by the ISIS-affiliated Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a faction of Boko Haram.
More than 27 000 people are thought to have been killed in the Islamist insurgency that has triggered a humanitarian crisis and left 1.8 million people without homes. — AFP.