Senate Seeks Agency for Integration of Repentant Boko Haram Suspects

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Ovie Omo-Agege

Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Senate yesterday began the consideration of a bill to create an agency to oversee the rehabilitation and integration of repentant Boko Haram members.

The Senate, at a plenary presided over by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, passed for the first reading, the bill entitled, “National agency for the education, rehabilitation, de-radicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents in Nigeria,” sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe East).

The bill was one of the five bills that passed through first reading after being read by the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Nelson Ayewoh, upon the instruction of Omo-Agege after the adoption of the votes and proceedings of Wednesday.

The four other bills that passed through first reading included the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill 2020 (SB 321) sponsored by Omo-Agege; Federal Polytechnic Maiduguri (Est, etc) Bill 2020 (SB 338) sponsored by Senator Kashim Shettima; 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill 2020 (SB 274) and Metallurgy Training Institute Orumba (Est, etc) Bill 2020.

The five bills will now be scheduled for second reading by the Senate Committee on Rules and Business headed by Senator Umar Farouk.

The main aim of the six-page National agency for the education, rehabilitation, de-radicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents in Nigeria bill, is to provide avenue for rehabilitating, de-radicalising, educating and reintegrating the defectors, repentant and detained members of Boko Haram group to make them useful members of the society.

Other objectives of the bill include: “To provide avenue for reconciliation and promote national security, and provide an-open-door and encouragement for other members of the group who are still engaged in the insurgency to abandon the group especially in the face of the military pressure;
“Giving the government an opportunity to derive insider-information about the insurgence group for greater understanding of the group and its inner workings;
“Gaining greater understanding of the insurgents will enable government to address the immediate concerns of violence and study the needs of de-radicalisation effort to improve the process of de-radicalisation;

“Help disintegrate the violent and poisonous ideology that the group spreads as the programme will enable some convicted or suspected terrorists to express remorse over their actions, repent and recant their violent ideology and re-enter mainstream politics, religion and society.”
The Defence Headquarters had in 2017 set up a rehabilitation centre for repentant Boko Haram terrorists in Gombe State.

The centre has trained and rehabilitated over 1,000 insurgents since its inception.
Though the programme for the rehabilitation of the insurgents began in 2016, it was not until 2018 that the release of the suspects began.

The Defence Headquarters had also recently said it had rehabilitated former Boko Haram fighters as a shift from the use of arms and weapons to a soft approach to the war against insurgency in the North-east.

About 1,400 ‘repentant’ Boko Haram suspects, who were in detention, were released and resettled back into the society by the Nigerian military.