Boko Haram: Residents, stakeholders, fear terrorists may take Borno from inside after surrendering
The 12-year-old battle between the Nigerian security forces and members of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, which has spread across the Northeast region, resulting in the killings of over 30,000 innocent citizens and the displacement of over three million people from their ancestral homes began in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. This conflict has changed a lot of things not only in Borno State but also the entire country as many homes had a taste of what the insurgency brought.
While it is a thing of joy to hear the numbers of terrorists surrendering to the Nigerian military, it is also wise for the Nigerian authorities to tread carefully in receiving the so-called repentant terrorists.
Borno residents have welcomed the new development with mixed feelings looking at the other side of the act of war. While responding to the increased recent surrendering of terrorists to troops, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, spoke the minds of many residents who had suffered and still bearing the brunt of the 12 years insurgency which is still counting as there was recently an attempt by the terrorists to overrun Damboa town in Borno.
Residents and security operatives believe that hunger or blockage of food supplies should not be the only reasons the terrorists are coming out to surrender.
“There must be something to look into regarding the influx of the terrorists, who are coming behind their wives and children as human shields. I am not doubting the capacity of our military but the foolishness of our politicians is what matters here because they can put pressure on the military to release terrorists for some political manipulations at the detriment of our people who are craving for food and water. ” Ibrahim Audi, a resident of Maiduguri observed.
Also, Muktar Salim, a staff of one of the higher institutions in Maiduguri said that over 1000 Boko Haram Terrorists were said to have surrendered to troops.
” Where are these terrorists being kept? How is the government approaching this situation? If these terrorists are coming for good, then I will be happy for all of us. But if they are coming with a hidden agenda, then I am worried they might be agents coming to prepare how they might take the state from within. The government should, therefore, not be in a hurry to release them into the communities as it may turn out to be a serious disaster.”
Mohammed Kabir Suleiman likened the influx of the surrendering terrorists to what is currently happening in Afghanistan. According to him, some Taliban’s have come out to renounce terrorism and they were allowed to move freely among the people but suddenly as the Americans pull out the government of Afghanistan, they cannot stop them again.
“It is fearful what is happening today in Afghanistan. I read from reports that terrorists who had earlier surrendered and lived in the cities now being occupied by the Taliban are the same people who made ways for the fighters to take these cities like wildfire. Nigeria and our military should not allow mistakes like this to happen because it will be a disaster more than what we have seen in the past, especially with the knowledge and experience of war that these terrorists are coming with,” he said.
In his observation, the Shehu of Borno said “Surrendering to the military; was a welcome development to both the State Government and victims of terrorism.”
He said the Safe Corridor program of the Army led to the de-radicalization of repentant terrorists in Gombe State. But that it will be very difficult if not impossible for Borno citizens to reintegrate the repentant insurgents into destroyed communities.
The Shehu recalled the destruction of Bama town, one of the largest towns in terms of population in the state, adding that, “Bama township and its College of Education; were flattened by Boko Haram in September 2014.”
He observed that the fear of the people over the 12-year insurgency still remains and will continue to haunt members of the communities, where the surrendered terrorists are to be re-integrated.
“13 district heads and many ward heads were killed in the over a decade insurgency in my emirate; comprising 16 Local Government Areas in the state. It is easy to forgive for the destruction of many lives and property, but difficult to forget the wanton loss of lives in the various communities of my Chiefdom,” The royal father said.
“Many people were killed along with their property for 12 years. And you people and the media expect us to forget and forgive the repentant terrorists?” he asked citing a resident who lost eight members of his family to Boko Haram. “If the repentant terrorists killed the entire family, the survivor will definitely pursue the reintegrated insurgents for revenge no matter where he goes or lives in the country,” he said.
He, therefore, warned that it will be difficult and dicey to allow the repentant terrorists to live in their respective communities, while the people are still going through the trauma coupled with hunger, diseases and the blood still flowing with unrepentant terrorists still operating in the state.
Another key area observed on the surrendering of the Boko Haram fighters was the point raised by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume, who in his opinion said, no blanket amnesty or pampering should be given to the terrorists.
Ndume urged the Nigerian authorities to ensure that citizens who bore the mark of the conflict on their bodies are settled. “This is when the nation can begin to talk about how to reintegrate those who have wreaked havoc in the country and are now pleading for mercy.”
Ndume suggested that, the first step after getting the surrendered terrorists, is the resettlement of about 1.7 million displaced persons. “Now that the war is getting to an end, then we talk of profiling, investigating and interrogating the surrendered terrorists from the forest and Lake Chad region,” he said.