SERAP Asks Lawan to Drop Bill to Give Repentant Terrorists Foreign Education

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the Senate President Dr Ahmad Lawan, urging him to ensure that the bill that would allow ‘repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ opportunities to access public funds to enjoy foreign education is immediately dropped.

SERAP also asked the Senate President to sponsor bills that would ensure access to justice and reparation for the victims of Boko Haram terrorist group.

According to SERAP, “the bill, which has passed the first reading at the Senate would give opportunities to ‘repentant terrorists’ to receive foreign education including by accessing funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund and subventions from the government.”

In the letter dated February 28, 2020 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “This bill erodes justice and makes a mockery of the suffering of victims, and the unspeakable human tragedy, humanitarian crisis and appalling atrocities committed by the Boko Haram terrorist group.”

SERAP said: “By calling Boko Haram members ‘ex-agitators’, the bill mocks the victims of appalling atrocities committed by the terrorist group, and is a blatant affront to victims’ dignity. ‘Repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ are not ‘ex-agitators’; they are terrorists under Nigerian and international laws.”

According to SERAP: “Boko Haram members should not be allowed to enjoy foreign education while over 13 million Nigerian children of school age are roaming our streets. Alleged perpetrators of gross violations should not get the benefits at the expense of these and other deserving children. Rather than allowing perpetrators to access public funds to enjoy foreign education, the Senate should be promoting reparation for victims, to prevent future criminality and ensure the best interest of justice.”

SERAP also said: “Should the Senate go-ahead to pass the bill, and should the bill be supported by the House of Representatives and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions nationally and internationally to challenge the legality of any such law and ensure that it is never implemented.”

The letter read, in part: “Prioritising the education of Boko Haram members over the rights of Nigerian children to quality education is discriminatory, as it violates Nigerian constitutional provisions, international and regional human rights obligations, and will undermine national development.

“This bill serves neither justice nor the public interest. The bill also does not represent value for money for Nigerian taxpayers, especially coming from an institution whose individual member reportedly takes home about N182 million yearly, translating to N15.1 million monthly or N45.3 million quarterly.

“Internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in many parts of the country are in shambles, with people lacking access to basic necessities like food, clothing and children of victims lacking access to basic education.

“Without justice, the seeds of future criminality and militant terrorism will grow. This bill, if passed, would only lead to more terrorism and suffering.

“The Senate should focus on passing bills that would ensure access of victims to effective remedies including adequate reparation, and effective prosecution of ‘repentant Boko Haram members’ rather than rewarding them with opportunities to study abroad.

“Prioritising alleged perpetrators’ rights at the expense of the victims’ rights, interests and needs is discriminatory, illegal and unconstitutional, as it amounts to ‘re-victimisation’. While the alleged ‘repentant Boko Haram terrorists have the right to an impartial and fair trial, they have absolutely no right to enjoy foreign education.

“Pursuing accountability of perpetrators would also show that Nigerian authorities will take action against those who commit gross human rights violations against their own people.”