Luxury For ‘Repentant’ Boko Haram Members

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The bill seeking for the rehabilitation of repentant insurgents is ill-advised

In the midst of the ongoing serial brutalities against Nigerians who reside in the North-east,
a bewildering bill was recently tabled before the Senate aimed at mainstreaming “repentant” Boko Haram insurgents into the Nigerian society.

Sponsored by former Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, who now represents Yobe South Senatorial district, the bill seeks the establishment of an agency for the rehabilitation and integration of insurgents and “help to counter the violent and poisonous ideology that the Boko Haram spreads”.

Expectantly, the bill has ignited criticisms from many quarters. Some have likened it to a deliberate effort to prolong the decade-long insurgency. Indeed, the proposal raises many pertinent questions: Why the urgency to free Boko Haram suspects when the war
is still in full force? Why should anyone talk of rehabilitating terrorists while the innocent victims of their brutalities are reeling in pains, many of them unattended to? And why should public money be poured into an agency that will make the criminals comfortable when the soldiers in the frontline are ill-equipped and ill-motivated? Why do we need to indulge some misguided zealots who have proved again and again that they are not ready for negotiation? Only recently, the Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai said 10 years was insufficient to deradicalise an indoctrinated person. So, what exactly is driving this crazy idea and to serve what end?

The timing of the bill could not be worse. For many Nigerians, particularly those in the North-east, life has never been so brutal. With the maimed, the orphans, the widows, widowers and the tides of refugees in IDPs camps practically left to their own devices, the
preoccupation with making some killers happy makes

no sense. Former Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, whose senatorial district is adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgents’ attacks said recently that around 1.7 million people have been displaced in Borno State alone. He put the value of the damage at around $9.6 billion. “Around 60,000 children are orphaned. Only God knows how many children are out of school, have no access to water, food and means of livelihood. The humanitarian crisis that is coming after the war may be more dangerous than the war itself,” he said.

Indeed, two international humanitarian groups said over 14 million Nigerians have been directly affected by the humanitarian crisis in the North east region while some 1500 schools, around one million houses were destroyed as at 2017. According to the United Nations, some 27,000 people have been killed in the hostilities, aggravated by the vicious Boko Haram breakaway faction called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Unfortunately, if Gaidam’s bill is allowed to fly it will simply legitimise long-standing official willingness to overlook the blood in the hands of the killers and
reintegrate into the society. But the real incentive for this proposition might be the idea of creating another bureaucracy similar to the Niger Delta amnesty programme with money from public treasury.

Two years ago while receiving the 107 schools abducted in Dapchi, Yobe State by Boko Haram, President Buhari hinted of an amnesty to repentant criminals. Shortly after, the military established a camp to “rehabilitate and reintegrate surrendered and repentant Boko Haram terrorist members” via an exercise known as Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), an intergovernmental programme aimed at rehabilitating “low risk repentant” Boko Haram fighters. But so many Nigerians, including retired and serving military personnel, have
expressed concerns about this dangerous gambit. For one, there is no assurance that the “repentant” fighters will not game the system by returning to the communities and reenact their orgy of killing. Some reports suggest that is already happening!