Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
No repentant Boko Haram terrorist has been conscripted into the armed forces, the presidency said last night, adding that there is no plan to enlist any of them in future.
The presidency made this clarification last night in a reaction to widespread condemnation of the alleged absorption of deradicalised members of the terrorist group into the military as well as the rejection of their integration into the society by victims of their heinous acts.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, described those making the insinuations as accomplices to fake news.
He emphasised that none of the 601 deradicalised ex-members of the Boko Haram group would be recruited into the armed forces despite the completion of the deradicalisation process.
According to Shehu, the deradicalisation process, otherwise known as “Operation Safe Corridor,” was an imitation of an initiative adopted by countries with similar terrorism experience.
He said they also enjoy an educational package supported by the European Union and United Nations.
He accused unnamed religious leaders and lawmakers of buying the dummy sold by fake news merchants, a situation he said necessitated the clarification.
He explained: “Now that groups with hitherto proven bona fides, some religious leaders and a few in the legislature have joined the supply chain of fake news, it is important that we step in to clear the false reports that the administration is absorbing repentant Boko Haram terrorists into the military.
“It is important for the public to know that nobody has ever been absorbed into the military from the deradicalised Boko Haram and there is no such plan for their absorption. None of the 601 former Boko Haram members who voluntarily laid down their arms, and have recently graduated from the federal government’s deradicalisation and rehabilitation programme is going into the military. This is the fourth such graduation of repentant Boko Haram fighters and not one of such graduates has been absorbed into the military.
“The public needs to be reassured that the deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists of the Buhari administration code-named ‘Operation Safe Corridor,’ follows an established example from countries with similar experiences, and is supported academically and materially by the European Union and the United Nations.”
He disclosed that an international agency, International Organisation for Migration, is the lead agency implementing the programme in Gombe State.
He said hardened terrorists are ruled out of the deradicalisation process, while beneficiaries of the process were rather those forced into violent extremism against their own will.
He admonished community members to stop rejecting the deradicalised ex-terrorists if they don’t want them to return to violence.
Shehu stated: “The lead agency for the implementation of the programme in Gombe is the International Organisation for Migration, a leading inter-government organization which is represented in Nigeria.
“It is also important to note that this programme does not have a place for hard-boiled, ideologically hardened terrorists. It only admits, after careful scrutiny, repentant fighters that were captured and forced to bear arms in the first instance, and there are many who have been drafted by force.
“At the point of their graduation, a determination is made that the former combatants have repented and are better citizens, imbued with genuine nationalism. They must no longer represent a danger to society or to themselves.
“There they are certified as such, communities have the duty of accepting them. Unless they want them to take up arms and resume terrorism from which they have repented, community leaders must work with the relevant agencies to end their rejection.
“The Buhari administration is a responsible one and is conscious of its duty to the state and society, and to the victims of terror as well as to those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people.”