Military widows fault planned release of 608 repentant militants

The National Vice-President of Military Widows Association, Mrs Idith Opesanmi, has faulted the Federal Government’s decision to release more repentant Boko Haram members.

Opesanmi said this during an interview with The PUNCH on the sidelines of the maiden lecture of Support Our Troops Foundation in Abuja on Wednesday.

She said the number of soldiers being killed at the war front was increasing daily.

Opesanmi, who is the widow of the late Col. Johnson Opesanmi, said terrorists were not better than other criminals who were being made to pay for their crimes and should not be given preferential treatment.

The widow said, “They (terrorists) should face justice. You know they are involved in the killing and maiming of soldiers. So, whenever they are arrested, they should be punished like any other criminal.

“Widows feel bad about it. Our husbands go to fight these terrorists and keep dying. The number of widows is increasing daily. Some of these widows are young ladies.”

Opesanmi, who noted that the Federal Government was trying to replicate the amnesty programme of the Niger Delta militants, said even the amnesty programme did not stop militancy.

Also speaking with The PUNCH, a former Director at the Department of State Services, Mr Mike Ejiofor, said the time was not ripe for the government to release repentant terrorists.

“For me, the programme is not well timed. You cannot be releasing Boko Haram suspects when the war is still ongoing. It is after the war has been fought and won that you can release those ones that have been rehabilitated and deradicalised,” he said.

In a series of tweets also, a journalist, Ahmad Salkida, described the programme as illogical.

Salkida said releasing repentant terrorists was counter productive.

“The so-called rehabilitation and release of Boko Haram members presumed to be repentant is a most ill-informed strategy. It should be suspended indefinitely. In my considered view, until the war ends, the suspension should remain.

“The suspension of the rehab-release strategy doesn’t undermine the process of deradicalisation or investigation into those wrongly detained with a view to releasing them. The idea of pandering to murderers and disregarding their victims must stop.”

Recall that the military authorities had last week announced that 608 more repentant Boko Haram insurgents are currently undergoing de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration otherwise known as DRR programme put together by the Operation Safe Corridor at Malam-Sidi, Gombe State.

PUNCH reports that about 1, 500 repentant Boko Haram members have been released by the military so far.

Incidentally, the releases have coincided with a spike in terror attacks.

On July 22, 2019, the military handed over 150 repentant terrorists to the Borno State Deputy Governor, Usman Kahdafur, in Maiduguri.

Similarly, on November 27, 2019, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, released 983 repentant extremists comprising 978 males and five females.

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