President Buhari and some of the freed Boko Haram captives

As the federal government confirms its negotiation with terrorists, Wole Ayodele writes on objections to the policy by concerned Nigerians

In a desperate bid to secure the release of hundreds of school girls abducted at Chibok and Dapchi by Boko Haram insurgents, the federal government entered into negotiations with the terrorist group, which it had earlier proclaimed defeated. Though there was no official information on the terms of the negotiation with the terrorists, reports in the local and international media indicate that the Muhammadu Buhari administration paid money running into millions of Euros to the insurgents.

Besides, as part of the deal, the government was reported to have released some members of the group that were arrested by security agencies to secure the release of the abducted schoolgirls, some of whom had been sexually assaulted by their captors. Apart from the release of the girls, the negotiation is equally aimed at securing a ceasefire agreement from the insurgents, which the federal government think would ultimately bring the insurgency to a halt.

Although government has succeeded in securing the release of many of the girls to the applause of many Nigerians, it has, however, continued to come under serious knocks and condemnation from Nigerians.
Many of them opine that rather than pacify the terrorists and resolve the security challenges they pose to the nation permanently, the federal government’s action would only embolden the terrorists and provide them a deep war-chest to prosecute their agenda.

Expressing total disdain for the federal government’s policy, former Attorney General of Taraba State and Secretary to the State Government, Gebon Timothy Kataps, said terrorism had never been defeated anywhere in the world by negotiation.

Describing the government’s action as irresponsible and reprehensible, Kataps insisted that responsible governments across the world fight terrorism wholeheartedly and crush it totally rather than entering into negotiations with terrorists.

According to him, “I have never heard of anywhere in the world where terrorism was defeated by negotiation. Responsible government don’t negotiate with terrorists, it fights terrorism and crushes it totally. May God put an end to these killings in our country!

“These were the same people, who raised their voices to high heavens during Jonathan’s administration against negotiating with Boko Haram for the release of the Chibok girls and today, they are doing exactly what they condemned as bad”

In his reaction, an Islamic cleric, Imam Murtadha Gusau warned the federal government not to negotiate with the terrorists, saying it is an act of weakness, incompetence and failure to pay ransom to the terrorists to secure the release of the abducted girls.

Though he expressed gratitude to God for the release of the girls and prayed for the safe return of Leah Sharibu, who is still being held by their abductors due to her failure to convert to Islam, Gusau noted that holding negotiations with the terrorists without first breaking their backs was wrong and not in accordance with the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

He stressed that it would have been appropriate for the government to listen to the terrorists if they had laid down their arms first, adopt a peaceful path and put forward demands in the form of dialogue, which can be met if found to be justified and the unjustified ones rejected.

“Thanks be to Almighty Allah for their release. I, on behalf of the congregations of our Mosques, rejoice with the schoolgirls, their parents, their relations, the federal government of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Army, all the security agents and the entirety of Nigerians for the early return of the girls. But I pray that they were released without paying any ransom to the terrorists.”

“Respected brothers and sisters, let everyone know that if it is true as being widely speculated, the Nigerian government entered into negotiations with the terrorists/khawarij on the basis of paying ransom to them, wallahi, it will be weakness, incompetence and failure of the government.”

Gusau insisted that unless the underlying conditions that allow Boko Haram enjoy local support are eliminated, the future would not augur well, particularly ignorance and poverty.

In his submission, Professor Farooq A. Kperogi, a renowned researcher said with the ransom paid on the abducted girls, Boko Haram is now better financed by the Nigerian government than the military, adding that the terrorist group would continue to use the war chest handed them by our government to unleash more terror, abduct more girls, and earn more money.

“It has become a profitable racket. While it’s hard to make the case that money shouldn’t be paid to secure the release of scared, innocent girls, it’s also good to remember that the money paid to secure the release of some girls will be used to abduct other girls and inflict harm on others. So, ransom payment isn’t a sustainable strategy.

“Any country that purchases its peace will perpetually be indebted to war. But more than that, Boko Haram is now winning the ideational war. For instance, reports said that when members of the group returned the Dapchi girls, they stayed for a bit and preached against girl-child education. They told the girls to never go to school again or risk abduction.

“In a region that desperately needs education, especially girl-child education, we’ve been set back by probably five decades. No responsible parents will send their daughters to school again. The girls’ life is infinitely more important than their education.

“Similarly, Boko Haram is clearly now being unwittingly lionised, deodorised, decriminalised, and mainstreamed by the government. The terrorist group isn’t just being financed by the Buhari government through handsome ransom; it is also being unintentionally glamorised. There is no bigger recruitment tool for the group than this. It’s a loud message that crime does pay.”

But Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, has attributed the increasing spate of killings by herdsmen across the country to the release of Boko Haram members in prison custody by the federal government.
Bwacha, who disclosed that he has met and discussed the matter with Buhari privately, noted that the terrorists were unleashed on the society without being properly de-radicalised and they have now joined the rank of herdsmen to divert attention from them and continue perpetrating their evil agenda.

Wondering whether the government weighed the implications and consequences of releasing the terrorists on the country’s security, the lawmaker maintained that releasing them into the society has enlarged the scope of Boko Haram from the North East to the entire country.

“I will continue to disagree with people, who said herdsmen are the ones carrying out these killings across the country. These Boko Haram suspects, who were arrested and detained but later released into the society without being properly de-radicalised are the ones carrying out these killing spree
“What is the basis of releasing them in their numbers? These people that have been indoctrinated, you are fighting them in the North East but you continue to release them in their numbers into the society and today, we are having the effects of their release in the entire country.”

It has become evident that whatever the goals, the federal government has succeeded in scoring with the negotiated release of the kidnapped school girls, but the negative implications of the action will continue to stare the country in the face, even after the expiration of the current regime.