AFRICANGLOBE – As ‘private military experts’ arrive to train Nigerian soldiers in counter-terrorism South Africa threatens to arrest them on their return home.
Nigeria and South Africa may be heading towards a fresh diplomatic row after about 100 South African ‘private military experts’ arrived in Abuja to train Nigerian soldiers on how to confront Boko Haram terrorism.
The South African government is opposed to the arrangement, calling the ‘military experts’ mercenaries.
It threatened to arrest them on returning home.
Nigeria is playing down the invitation of the South Africans, many of whom are believed to have worked for the defunct apartheid government to hunt down black freedom fighters.
Spokesman for the Defence Headquarters, Major General Chris Olukolade said during the week that : “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 South African Minister for International Relations and Co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, speaking to journalists on the sideline of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia expressed dismay at the involvement of her compatriots in the deal.
“We always discourage South Africans to enter the fray in a situation like that,” she said.
The brewing face-off is coming on the heels of the September 2014 seizure by South Africa of a total of $15 million cash belonging to the federal government.
The money was ostensibly for the purchase of arms from the open market to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.
The first tranche of $9.3 million cash was confiscated from two Nigerians and an Israeli who flew into South Africa in a jet owned by a Nigerian clergy.
The men landed at Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg, on September 5 in a private jet from Abuja with the money stashed in three suitcases.
At the time, the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS), said customs officers became suspicious when the passengers’ luggage were unloaded and put through the scanners.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), in South Africa said there was an invoice for helicopters and armaments intended to be used in Nigeria.
The second tranche of $5.7 million was seized three weeks later.
Under South African laws, a person entering or leaving the country is expected to carry cash not exceeding US$2,300, or the equivalent in foreign currency notes.
Nigeria responded at the time that it had to turn to South Africa after the Western countries refused to sell arms to it, on the grounds of human rights abuse.
Government has since succeeded in getting some of the required arms from Czech Republic.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Adamawa in this month’s election, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu says Nigeria was “desperate” for military supplies and had to turn to the black market because Western governments were unwilling to help.
“The world might regard this as illegal, but we were being stopped from getting help and our people were being slaughtered,” Mr. Ribadu told The Globe and Mail of Canada.
“We were being wiped out, and the world didn’t give a damn. Nigeria was forced into the black market.”