Nigeria’s Former Air Commodore Echoes Call for Military Contractors

Nigeria’s Former Air Commodore Echoes Call for Military Contractors

After a spate of recent setbacks, including a series of serious plane crashes, Abayomi Balogun says a special advisor to the President was right and that it is time to call in reinforcements.

During a lengthy interview, Balogun repeatedly expressed support for the Nigerian Air Force’s pilots and infrastructure. 30 people have died in six airplane crashes in six years. Video from the most recent crash appears to show the pilots ejecting from a Beechcraft and leaving the aircraft to crash. Balogun disputed this video’s authenticity.

As for contractors, Balogun noted that they are adept at “special operations.” An influx of contractors, along with calling up the reserves, could solve the Nigerian Army’s manpower shortage, he predicted. “The peace and security of a nation must be maintained before anything else comes in. When we see these kinds of challenges and we are guessing they are beyond our control, we can seek help from anywhere,” he concluded.

The Situation in Nigeria

If there is a powderkeg in Africa, it might be Nigeria. This West African nation is right on the line between the Christian south and the Muslim north. Mozambique and the Central African Republic, which are on basically the same latitude as Nigeria, are also going through protracted civil wars.

Beginning in the early 2000s, Boko Haram, an ISIS-affiliated group, has waged an insurgency based in northern Nigeria. Since 2009, these militants have forced over two million people to abandon their homes. Boko Haram fighters have killed tens of thousands of people. Many of these people were brutally executed. In fact, in 2015, an international watchdog agency called Boko Haram the deadliest terrorist organization in the world. As outlined below, Nigeria’s war with Boko Haram is at a critical point. Things are poised to get a lot better, or a lot worse, for this nation.

Furthermore, Nigeria is one of the most diverse African nations. 250 different ethnic groups speak more than 500 different languages. Diverse people do not always get along well together.
Yet there is also strength in diversity, and Nigeria is a good example of this principle. It has the continent’s largest economy and is an emerging market, according to the World Bank.

As mentioned, Boko Haram was at the peak of its power in 2015. But the ISIS partnership significantly weakened the group, which suffered a series of setbacks against a suddenly aggressive Nigerian army. In 2019, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari issued a “Mission Accomplished”-style declaration regarding the defeat of Boko Haram. But terrorist attacks continued.

In May 2021, several sources confirmed that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was dead. Reportedly, he killed himself when his capture seemed inevitable. If history provides any guidance, his death will either make him into a martyr or cause his followers to scatter. Either way, Nigeria will probably need private military contractors to bolster its armed forces. Contractors usually excel in situations like this one.

Contractors in Africa

Late-stage conflicts, like Nigeria’s war against Boko Haram, usually call for combat support and civilian pacification. Quite rightly, Nigerian officials recognize that contractors are well-suited for these roles.

Combat support often means escort or guard duty. Many regular service members dislike such operations. Some even consider such assignments a form of punishment. But contractors understand how vital such operations are. Such duties free regular servicemembers for offensive operations. American law prohibits contractors from participating in such efforts. That is one of the biggest differences between mercenaries and contractors.

Furthermore, such efforts improve security for everyone, including civilians. Security is always the ultimate goal of any operation.

Civilian pacification builds on the security concept. Many private military contractors are former law enforcement officers. So, they understand the value of armed men at a busy street corner. That presence deters evildoers and also makes civilians feel safer. These two areas feed off each other. The safer people feel, the more militants cower away.

Moreover, these contractors usually know how to reach out to civilians and form relationships with them without being overbearing. These relationships pay off when trouble flares up, as it inevitably does. Citizens who have ties to contractors are less likely to provide aid and comfort to militants and more likely to come forward with vital intelligence.

Contractors in Africa serve in other capacities, as well. Military training is a good illustration. Many contractors are foreign nationals. That’s a big advantage in a diverse country like Nigeria. Contractors understand how to effectively communicate with trainees and pass on the anti-insurgency lessons they have learned at the school of hard knocks.

Injury Compensation Available

These activities are risky. When regular service members are injured in the line of duty, the VA usually takes care of them. Contractors can rely on the Defense Base Act in the same way.

Individuals who are under any government contract, whether it is civilian or military, and work in an overseas war zone are entitled to DBA compensation. An overseas outpost is usually anyplace outside the 50 states. Contractors injured in Guam or Guantonimo, or inside a U.S. embassy, are entitled to DBA compensation, even though these places are technically American territory.

As for a “war zone,” any country or territory that has any American military presence qualifies as such. So, pretty much every country in the world is a “war zone” for DBA purposes. A single military adjunct or advisor is all that’s required.

The aforementioned “line of duty” concept is very broad as well. The VA usually covers deployment-related injuries, such as injuries due to an off-base car crash. In the same way, the DBA usually applies to any deployment-related injury. The injury need not occur “on the clock.” A contractor who falls in a restroom has access to the same benefits as one injured in a training accident or during a militant ambush.

These benefits usually include compensation for lost wages and medical bills. Most injured contractors receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their disabilities. The medical bill benefit usually covers all reasonably necessary medical expenses. This category includes both direct and ancillary costs.

For more information about DBA procedure, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.