The reintegration of some Boko Haram members into the society is ill-advised

The recent revelation that 603 ‘repentant’ Boko Haram insurgents who had completed the de-radicalisation programme would be reintegrated into the communities calls to question the sincerity of the federal government towards securing lives and property in the country. We also share the misgivings of the neglected widows and other victims of the insurgency who query the wisdom of the decision at the expense of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). That the federal government would be expending huge resources on some ‘repentant’ insurgents while neglecting their victims is to say the least unconscionable.

Former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume recently added his voice to that of other critical stakeholders who condemned the policy. Ndume, who is currently chairman of the senate committee on army, alleged that most of the insurgents recently integrated into the community had gone back to their old ways. “Many among those released have since run away. They will never repent,” said Ndume. “The government should know what to do about them, but not reintroducing someone to you, who has killed your parents or your relations”. He argued that the insurgents believe the government has failed “and that is why they are being pampered. This government’s programme is unacceptable to our people. The right thing is to stop it forthwith.”

Against the background that the humanitarian situations in the IDP camps across the country beg for attention, it is indefensible to be spending billions of Naira on some ‘repentant’ killers. With thousands of displaced Boko Haram victims reportedly sleeping in the open and living in extremely overcrowded and deplorable conditions, the plight of the IDPs is dire, harsh and increasingly becoming critical. It is estimated that 1.8 million people, of which women and children constitute 87 per cent, are affected by the continued widespread insecurity and hostilities. It is criminal to ignore these most vulnerable citizens and then begin to pamper those who put them in the situation they are in.

Dislodgement of populations by Boko Haram insurgents and resettlement in makeshift locations have over the years created economic and environmental degradation that has helped to promote communicable diseases and make life unbearable for the displaced citizens. There are also reports of the startling abuses to which women and girls are subjected in the camps. Many of these victims of insurgency also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders and increased rates of infectious diseases.

Thousands of children born in these camps do not have access to education. Hunger walks naked in many of the camps. Medicare is in short supply even as shelter, clothing and water are essential commodities. The deplorable condition of the displaced persons is amply captured in a recent report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which stated that “The vulnerable host populations are in critical need of humanitarian interventions that include food, water, sanitation, protection, education, shelter and health services.”

Despite expectations that the authorities would work for the restoration of lasting security in the Northeast so that people in the IDP camps can return to their communities to pick up the bits and pieces, they are now being further traumatised to learn that their tormentors are considered more important than them. On the security front, we believe that changing the service chiefs and command structure of the military will boost the morale of soldiers fighting the insurgents. But the issue of ‘repentant’ Boko Haram members being heavily funded by the federal government raises a lot of questions that demand answers. We join Ndume and others who say that the programme is ill-advised, provocative and must be terminated.