Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Nigerian Army yesterday handed over 150 ‘repentant’ Boko Haram members to Borno State Government.
At the exercise which was part of the ‘Operation Safe Corridor’, former militants were released to reunite with the society after they had undergone rehabilitation at a centre established for the purpose in Gombe State.
Handing over the de-radicalised and repentant terrorists to the Borno State Deputy Governor, Usman Umar Kadafur, at the Bulunkutu Rehabilitation Centre in Maiduguri, the coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor, Maj. Gen. Bamidele Shafa, said the deradicalisation and the subsequent acceptance of the returnees back into the society would encourage other boys still in the bush to lay down their arms.
Shafa said the returnees had been trained on various skills acquisition during the 52 weeks training exercise before their graduation last year November in Gombe State.
He said their release in order to reunite with the society was delayed because of the tension in the polity then and due to the resurgence of Boko Haram activities in northern part of Borno State.
Shafa said the chairman of the ‘Operation Safe Corridor’, the Chief of Defence Staff, felt that the time was not ripe to release the boys into the society then.
He said the security situation was the reason they were held for another eight months, “and now that the situation has stabilised and a new government is on board, the army decided to unite them with the Borno State Government, and in turn, their family members and society at large.
“The government is magnanimous in receiving them as we have witnessed. So we have told and advised them to embrace peace. They cannot continue to remain in the bush. Let them come out and be rehabilitated.
“A lot of sensitisation programmes have been done through the traditional rulers before their return. We have 151 repentant militants comprising 19 teenagers and 132 adults.”
He lamented that they were about 152 as of last Friday, but one of them died after battling health complication at the Gombe Federal Medical Centre.
In his remarks, the Borno State Deputy Governor, Kadafur, who received them on behalf of the state government, expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for initiating the ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ for the deradicalisation of repentant Boko Haram terrorists.
Kadafur also congratulated the ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ for a job well done, adding that the Borno State Government is ever ready to accept any member of the Boko Haram terrorists who is willing to abandon his former ways.
According to him, “As a government, we are ever ready to support you and join you with your brothers and sisters as well as reintegrate you into the society. We will assist you with whatever that is required to live a better life in any part of the state.”
The deputy governor added: “Since you have now denounced membership of the Boko Haram terrorist group, you are welcome back home. You will be accommodated wherever you want to live in the state.”