Archive for category Nigeria

Industry Talk: STTEP and Relentless Pursuit In Nigeria

Nigerian army 72 mobile strike force operatives pictured with their newley acquired beryl rifles. credit: nigerian_armed.forces

I have been away from the blog for awhile and now I am trying to play catch up. Over the last couple of months, probably the most significant story that stood out to me was the news from Eeben Barlow’s company called STTEP. Apparently they were on contract in Nigeria to help the Goodluck Jonathan government turn the tide agains Boko Haram. You heard that correctly–STTEP was called in to take on Boko Haram, a vicious jihadist group who is now allied with ISIS!

Now honestly, I had heard rumors of South Africans fighting in Nigeria last time I was home and hanging out on Facebook. What really grabbed my attention though was the deaths of Leon Lotz and Nangombe, both of which were former Koevoet, and both of which were working in Nigeria as contractors. The company they worked for was Pilgrims Africa Limited (or a subsidiary of Pilgrims Group Limited), which the managing director for PAL is Cobus Claassens.*

Cobus is quite the character and he was involved with Executive Outcomes back in the day. He was also on the History Channel with a show called Shadow Force and in the documentary called Shadow Company. If that isn’t enough, he was also the inspiration for Danny Archer, the main character in the movie Blood Diamond.

The thing with this news, is there wasn’t a lot to go with it. What were these guys doing there. Also, why was Boko Haram getting destroyed in Nigeria?

Well, it was only until SOFREP and Jack Murphy was able to score an interview with STTEP, another group operating there, where the bigger picture unfolded. Here is a quote of why STTEP was there and how their contract morphed from rescuing the Chibok Girls to fighting and stopping Boko Haram, based on the interview Jack did with Eeben Barlow (the chairman of STTEP).

The chairman of STTEP, Eeben Barlow, reports, “Our relationship with the Nigerian government and the Nigerian Armed Forces is very good, and as fellow Africans, they recognize the value we have added thus far at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.”

In mid-December of 2014, STTEP was contracted to deploy to Nigeria. Their mission was to train a mobile strike force to rescue the Chibok school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. When the terrorists abducted over 250 schoolgirls, it drew international media attention and put the ‘Nigerian Taliban’ on the map. Michelle Obama responded to the kidnapping with a perfectly ineffective social-media campaign driven by the Twitter hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

An advanced party of South African military veterans working for STTEP landed in Nigeria by early January of 2015. Instead of social-media activism, they held a selection program for the elite Nigerian military unit they were to train while the main body of STTEP began to arrive. “It is a mobile strike force with its own organic air support, intelligence, communications, logistics, and other relevant combat support elements,” said Barlow. He declined to name the unit they were training, but an open source investigation strongly suggests this unit is the 72 Strike Force.

By the time the main body of STTEP contractors arrived, the selection process for the Nigerian strike force was complete and training was able to commence immediately. “We built it from scratch,” Barlow explained, “and were able to, in a very short space of time, get it combat ready. The results this force achieved, along with the support of the Nigerian Army, are indeed remarkable.”

STTEP trained the Nigerian strike force in mounted and dismounted tactics with an emphasis on operational flexibility, which was tailored toward the unit’s specific mission. “I think we sometimes gave them [Nigerian military] gray hairs, as we were forever begging for equipment, ammunition, and so forth,” Barlow said as they conducted training in a remote area. “But, the credit in this instance goes to the chief instructor and his men, who implemented the training.”

The South Africans trained their Nigerian counterparts in the tactics, techniques, and procedures that they had practiced and refined on the battlefield since South Africa’s conflicts in the 1980s, including Barlow’s concept of relentless pursuit (which will be explored in a future article).

Meanwhile, Boko Haram was experiencing an increase in operational tempo and achieving successes in their area of operations. The militants captured Gwoza and established a base there in August, followed by the border town of Malam Fatori in November and Baga in January near Lake Chad. By early January of 2015, Boko Haram was estimated to have control over 20,000 square miles of territory.

With this in mind, STTEP’s mission quickly transitioned from training a rescue unit to training a rapidly deploying mobile strike force, and mentoring those they trained in the field. “By late February, the strike force conducted its first highly successful operational deployment,” Barlow said.

Outstanding and the interview is quite extensive. It is spread out over a six part series and each part discusses the various aspects of the contract and what they did. They also dispelled some myths and lies that was being reported on out there. Not only that, but Eeben dedicated several blog posts to the contract and dispelling myths. Here is a link to each post by SOFREP and Eeben.

SOFREP Interview

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 1): PMC and Nigerian Strike Force Devastates Boko Haram

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 2): Development of a Nigerian Strike Force

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 3): Tactics Used to Destroy Boko Haram

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 4): Rejecting the Racial Narrative

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 5): The External Drivers of Nigeria’s War

Eeben Barlow Speaks Out (Pt. 6): South African Contractors Withdrawal from Nigeria

Eeben Barlow’s Military and Security Blog

Updating the Narrative

Feeding the Narrative

I have also found some interesting outside links that discuss either the contract or filmed the action of Mobile Strike Force 72.

Beegeagle’s Blog

South African Mercenaries and Nigeria; Chairman of STTEP, Colonel Eeben Barlow, Speaks to the Beeagle’s Blog Community On Pervasive False Narratives


The War Against Boko Haram (Full Length video)


COUNTER INSURGENCY OPERATION: The Gains and Prospects ( various shots of trainers working with Nigerians)


As you can see with most of the material, Eeben has been definitely working hard to correct the narrative and call out the myths and lies about this contract. There are plenty of sources of information for folks to tap into when it comes to this contract.

A couple of things that I was curious about, was the methodology or model for this contract. In Part 3 of the SOFREP interviews, the tactics were discussed. It sounded like the model of operations was a mix of what Executive Outcomes did in Sierra Leone (read Eeben’s book Executive Outcomes: Against All Odds or Roelf’s book to read more about that) and it also sounded a lot like what Koevoet did during the South African bush wars. STTEP applied the principal of ‘relentless pursuit‘ to this contract, and yet again, we see success. (Eeben blogged about the concept) Here is a quote from the interview.


When asked about the tactics that STTEP mentors their Nigerian counterparts to use, Eeben Barlow, the company’s chairman, replied, “The strike force was never intended to hold ground. Instead, it operated on the principle of relentless offensive action.” Barlow has previously indicated that this tactic is key to waging an effective counterinsurgency.

In the doctrine Barlow advocates and made use of in Nigeria, relentless offensive action means immediately exploiting successful combat operations to keep the heat on the enemy. This strategy relies of the synchronization of every asset brought to the battlefield, and applied on multiple fronts against Boko Haram. One of those tactics includes the relentless pursuit of enemy forces.

As to the strategy, I asked Eeben on his blog about how involved STTEP was in formulating the strategy to go after Boko Haram. Here is his answer.

In Nigeria, the Strike Force was an asset of a certain infantry division. As such, the division commander was responsible for the overall theatre strategy. He would brief us on a specific operation and ask for our input. He would also ask us how best we could support his operations.
Generally, our relationship with African armies is that they engage with us on planning and execution and we give our input. At times, we are asked to plan the overall operation and then oversee the execution.

It is also important to note, much like EO’s contracts in Angola and Sierra Leone, that STTEP also had involvement with the aviation side of this contract. Here is the quote from the interview.

STTEP also brought an air wing to the table with its package of trainers, advisors, and mentors. The air wing is an organic asset of the strike force and takes its orders from the strike force commander. The pilots fly a variety of missions to include CASVAC, MEDVAC, resupply runs, transporting troops, and even providing air support for the strike force. For instance, the air wing was “given ‘kill blocks’ to the front and flanks of the strike force and could conduct missions in those areas,” Barlow said. This means that the air wing dropped ordnance to create blocking positions, which would prevent the enemy from escaping the operational area that the strike force was patrolling in, essentially isolating the objective area.

Now what I am not clear about, and I don’t think it has been mentioned in the interviews, is if STTEP and Pilgrims Africa Limited were working together in a partnership? Also, with the new president of Nigeria coming onto the scene, I wonder if they will use the services of STTEP?

After discussing this with Eeben on his blog, more than likely Buhari will turn to western aid and money, which will undoubtedly edge out smaller companies like STTEP. That is too bad. Although I have a feeling that STTEP will be getting more business because of their actions in Nigeria, or what they did in the hunt for Kony. Africans helping Africans…

Very interesting stuff and congrats to STTEP for a job well done. Also, good job to the other contractors like Pilgrims Africa Limited working in Nigeria that are helping to defeat Boko Haram. Rest in peace to the fallen and I certainly hope that Nigeria will remember that sacrifice. –Matt

Edit: 6/19/2015- After posting this, I have already received some interesting feedback and I got a correction on some of the details here. The two big ones is that STTEP and Pilgrims Africa Limited were not working together on the training/mentoring contract, and PAL was only involved with the logistical tasks supporting the contract. Leon and Nangombe were also working for STTEP at the time of death and not Pilgrims Africa Limited.

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Nigeria: Survey Report Creates ‘Wall Of Shame’ For PSC’s

What is interesting here is the idea of creating a wall of shame for companies. To actually analyze and determine who the good companies are and who the bad companies are, and publish those results. This process is great, if everyone respects the group doing the survey and agrees upon what the industry best practices are–or standards.

I have no idea if the group doing the survey is actually respected and legitimate, and the article gave no link to this survey or the company that performed it. But what I wanted to do here is highlight the effort. If Frank Anderson Consulting would like to come up and talk about this survey, feel free to do so in the comments or contact me directly. As it stands, I can’t even find a link to the company and I have never heard of them before.

Not only does the group doing the survey have to be respected, but the same group must also be tasked with doing the survey again in the near future to show any trends.  That way you can see what companies are making a turn around, and which companies are on the decline. It will also help investors and clients determine who the true winners and losers are. –Matt


Survey report okays 12 security firms in Nigeria
October 2, 2012
By Kingsley Adegboye
THE report of a survey of private security companies operating in Nigeria just released has shown that most of the security firms guarding homes and business places across the country lack the competence to secure lives and property.
The survey conducted by Frank Anderson Consulting however, gave 12 security companies a clean bill of health after a tour of the nation in the wake of recent security challenges nationwide. These companies that were given A+ rating are; ASE  Security Ltd, Bemil Nigeria Ltd, Cardinal Security Ltd, Crest Security Ltd, Executive Guards, Halogens Security, Kings Guards, Nigid Security Ltd, Monaco Security, Prudential Guards, Technocrime  Security, and Pahek Security Services.
The consulting firm noted that “Our survey and appraisals report of the numerous security companies operating in Nigeria was based on assets, branches, people, technology, refined systems, years of existence, board of directors structure and business focus.”

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Maritime Security: Piracy Off Africa Has Plunged, With A ‘Great Deal Of Credit’ Towards Armed Guards

The decrease in attacks appears to be a result of increased security measures taken by commercial vessels and of sustained antipiracy patrols by the navies of more than a dozen nations, including the United States.
Admiral Fox said the shipping industry “can take a great deal of credit” for the trend. More commercial vessels are carrying “embarked security teams” of armed guards, he said, and no vessel with such a team on board has been hijacked.

Excellent job to all security teams out there for producing these results. It is proof that ‘armed guards on boats’ is a crucial element of the overall strategy of countering piracy. Now hopefully every company and team out there doesn’t drop their guard, and they only continue to improve upon their operations and effectiveness.

That, and the industry must pay close attention to the changing tactics of the pirates. Off the coast of Nigeria, pirates seem to be more willing to take the chance of a gun fight with security forces in order to accomplish the task of taking a boat or kidnapping folks. The fear here is that other pirate groups will learn from these types of assaults and attempt the same.

Pirate action groups will also experiment and game the armed security systems of vessels. It will either be the  application of lethal surprise, overwhelming fire power, or the use of well coordinated/organized swarms. All of these tactics will be mixed together and combined by hungry and determined criminals willing to take that risk and try new methods. ‘Risk takers’ in that part of the world are not in short supply, and there is no telling how many smart and innovative criminal leaders/entrepreneurs there are. But they are out there, and we must stay one step ahead of them. –Matt 


U.S. Reports That Piracy Off Africa Has Plunged
August 28, 2012
Acts of piracy in the treacherous waters around the Horn of Africa have fallen sharply in 2012, according to statistics released by the United States Navy. The Navy credits aggressive patrolling by international forces and increased vigilance by the commercial shipping industry for the decrease.
Data released by the Navy last week showed 46 pirate attacks in the area this year, compared with 222 in all of last year and 239 in 2010. Nine of the piracy attempts this year have been successful, according to the data, compared with 34 successful attacks in all of 2011 and 68 in 2010.
Even so, senior Navy officers have been careful not to declare victory.
“The pirates are very adaptable, and they are very flexible,” said Vice Adm. Mark I. Fox, the Navy’s deputy chief for operations, plans and strategy. “We are watching carefully.”

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Industry Talk: Shell Spent Close To $1 Billion On Worldwide Security Between 2007-2009!

But the scale of Shell’s spending, revealed by the data for the first time, raises questions about the effectiveness of its security policies. “What is striking about the amount being spent in Nigeria is its ineffectiveness,” said Amunwa. “Shell spent many millions of dollars each year on government forces who failed to provide the company with adequate security.”
Nkabari said: “Shell cannot call this spending ‘security’. If it was really providing security, then why do we continue to have vandalisation, why do we have bunkering [theft of oil], why do we have the security mess that we have in the Niger delta? They give protection to the oil workers but they are not providing the region with ‘security’.”

It does raise the question as to how effective this has been in actually creating security? Either way, this is a stunning amount of money that Shell has dished out for security, and especially in Nigeria.

One thing about Nigeria is that it is filled with corrupt leaders in the military and government. Leaders that played both sides in the conflict there for economic gain. Meaning, they can get money by attacking the pipelines and stealing oil, and they can make money by protecting the pipelines. So they can just keep the money machine going by attacking through proxies, and protecting with the military. And meanwhile, Shell throws millions of dollars into that machine.

On the other hand, Shell is doing the numbers and doing the cost benefit analysis of all actions. So even if they are feeding this corrupt machine, at the end of the day, they are able to make a profit. Not only that, but the people have a say in this stuff too, and if they do not support the effort because of whatever reason, then they will lend their support to forces like MEND (or ideas like MEND, because everyone acted under it’s banner to steal from Shell)

This stuff is extremely interesting to me because companies like Shell or Exxon Mobil are going into war zones or non-permissive environments throughout the world, and setting up operations. And in one year, they could go from working with a somewhat stable government to being in the middle of political turmoil, rebellion (arab spring), war, or some insurgency. They have to make incredibly tough decisions at all levels of involvement, and they have to be good at predicting what’s next.

So like a small country, they need a security/defense apparatus, and they need an intelligence apparatus in order to create and implement strategies wherever they are at. When Shell had the third highest security budget in Africa, that is pretty significant. I wonder how the other companies compare?

Interesting stuff, and our industry and it’s lessons learned over the last ten years of war will be absolutely crucial to the resource extraction world–now and into the future… –Matt


Wearing an orange vest with camouflage?…


Shell spending millions of dollars on security in Nigeria, leaked data shows
Internal documents reveal oil company spent $383m over three years protecting staff and installations in Niger delta region
By Afua Hirsch and John Vidal
Sunday 19 August 2012
If it were a country Shell would have the third highest security budget in Africa.
Shell is paying Nigerian security forces tens of millions of dollars a year to guard their installations and staff in the Niger delta, according to leaked internal financial data seen by the Guardian. The oil giant also maintains a 1,200-strong internal police force in Nigeria, plus a network of plainclothes informants.
According to the data, the world’s largest company by revenue spent nearly $1bn on worldwide security between 2007-09: if it were a country Shell would have the third highest security budget in Africa, after South Africa and Nigeria itself.
The documents show that nearly 40% of Shell’s total security expenditure over the three year period – $383m (£244m) – was spent on protecting its staff and installations in Nigeria’s volatile Niger delta region. In 2009, $65m was spent on Nigerian government forces and $75m on “other” security costs – believed to be a mixture of private security firms and payments to individuals.
Activists expressed concern that the escalating cost of Shell’s security operation in the delta was further destabilising the oil rich region and helping to fuel rampant corruption and criminality. “The scale of Shell’s global security expenditure is colossal,” said Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog Platform. “It is staggering that Shell transferred $65m of company funds and resources into the hands of soldiers and police known for routine human rights abuses.”

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Al Qaeda: Boko Haram, Al Shabaab And AQIM Are Linking Up

“It’s one of the main depots of the Malian army,” a security source told AFP, adding that it had been built in case of “a long and difficult war.”A regional security source confirmed the seizure, saying the vast cache of weapons will “really boost AQIM’s striking power”, and adding: “It is really impressive what AQIM has found in the underground depot.”The source said the group “is today more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso”, Mali’s neighbour to the east.

This to me is fascinating and startling at the same time. Look at how fast these Islamist groups are spreading in Africa? They are taking advantage of the leadership vacuum caused by the Arab Spring, or making their moves in really poor and poorly governed countries. Where there is darkness on the continent, they are moving in to set up shop.

They are also capturing some pretty significant weapons and using this stuff to gain ground throughout the region. From the stuff in Libya that was ‘liberated’ during that fighting, to weapons depots in Mali that were taken by force.

And what gets me here is that I still haven’t heard what exactly Ansar Dine was able to get out of this weapon depot in Gao, Mali. Apparently they are now ‘more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso’, says the quote up top. So these non-state actors are now more armed than several countries combined? Yikes, and that is quite the accomplishment….It also makes you wonder about places like Syria, where that country is imploding and weapons depots–to include chemical and bio, could potentially be compromised.

Not only that, but now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in control of Egypt, whose to say that some of their weapons wouldn’t slip out into the world and find their way into Islamist’ hands? Or directly given to Islamists by a government that openly supports them. pfffftt.

We will see how it goes and somehow I don’t think this fire in the Middle East or Africa is going out any time soon. –Matt


Captured armored vehicle in Mali.


African extremist groups linking up: U.S. general
June 25, 2012
By Lauren French
Three of Africa’s largest extremist groups are sharing funds and swapping explosives in what could signal a dangerous escalation of security threats on the continent, the commander of the U.S. military’s Africa Command said on Monday.
General Carter Ham said there are indications that Boko Haram, al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – groups that he labeled as the continent’s most violent – are sharing money and explosive materials while training fighters together.
“Each of those three organizations is by itself a dangerous and worrisome threat,” Ham said at an African Center for Strategic Studies seminar for senior military and civilian officials from Africa, the United States and Europe.
“What really concerns me is the indications that the three organizations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts,” Ham said. “That is a real problem for us and for African security in general.”
The United States classified three of the alleged leaders of the Islamist sect Boko Haram, based in remote northeast Nigeria, as “foreign terrorist,” on June 20. But it declined to blacklist the entire organization to avoid elevating the group’s profile internationally. Police in Nigeria said members of the group seized a prison there Sunday and freed 40 inmates.

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Nigeria: Former MEND Militant Forges $103 Million Deal To Stop Piracy

Hmmm. Interesting. So is Nigeria taking a page from the Woodes Rogers playbook for their fight against pirates and militants? Below, I posted a snippet from Theodore Richard’s paper on the Letter of Marque. Is this a case of ‘it takes a pirate, to defeat a pirate’? lol –Matt


Expulsis Piratis, Restituta Commercia in Nigeria?


The western world’s “Golden Age of Piracy” began in 1715, following the 1713 Peace of Utrecht, which brought an end to a decade of European warfare involving all the continent’s major powers. The upsurge in piracy was caused by the unemployment of significant numbers of sailors: the English navy alone discharged 54,000 sailors and privateers could no longer obtain commissions to attack European commerce. This “Golden Age of Piracy” peaked around 1720 and reached an abrupt end in 1725. More than anyone else, the man responsible for bringing this age of piracy to an end was Woodes Rogers.
In an early example of the “revolving door” between the private and public sector employment, Rogers was a privateer before being appointed  as the Governor of Bahamas, then the pirate capital of the Americas. In order to reform this territory, Rogers dispersed the pirates of the Caribbean with privateers.
The piracy problem during this era was solved through a combination of tactics:
(1) the British Parliament passed legislation allowing overseas piracy trials, rather than requiring suspected pirates to be brought to England;
(2) captured pirates were publicly tried and executed;
(3) pirates who turned themselves in were pardoned;
(4) naval patrols were increased;
(5) rewards or bounties were promised for the capture of pirates; and
(6) private ships were licensed to attack and capture pirates.
Of these methods, the last is the most relevant here.

From the paper, Reconsidering the Letter of Marque: Utilizing Private Security Providers Against Piracy, by Theodore Richard.


Nigerian ex-militant forges security contract
Linked to $103M deal to stop piracy
By Jon Gambrell
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
A former militant leader in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta is linked to a private security company that signed a $103 million deal with the government to patrol the West African nation’s waterways to stop piracy, officials have told the Associated Press.
The commander, who was granted amnesty in 2009, endorsed hiring Global West Vessel Specialist Agency Ltd. to protect the waterways, something Nigeria’s navy and civil authorities appear unable to do.
Before the amnesty, men allied with the ex-militant, Government Ekpumopolo, carried out attacks and killings in the southern Niger Delta.

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