Allaying Public Fears on Repentant Terrorists
By Mahmud Abdulsalam
Ordinarily, the fact that a criminals are turning a new leaf, quitting their nauseating attitude, immoral behaviour and awful ways, should call for merrymaking. It becomes even comforting when the criminals in particular are members of a terrorist organisation like Boko Haram.
In Nigeria, Boko Haram, extremist group, founded by late Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed by Nigerian military forces in 2009, is a thorn in the flesh of mostly security agents in the North East, ab initio.
But in recent times, the group, together with its sister organisation, deeply enmeshed in acts of religious fundamentalism, have unleashed mayhem on innocent civilians, across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.
The obnoxious activities of the two sects have conspired to make the North East a no-go area for many. For about 12 years now, Boko Haram and ISWAP elements have remained unyielding in their satanic quest to shatter the fabric of western education, most especially in the troubled North East.
The groups, who initially declared war on their ‘arch enemies’–the security agencies–over the years have not only succeeded in killing many officers and men of the Nigerian army and police, they went ahead to recruit thousand of idle youths and co-opted hundreds of young females into their fold.
Having remained defiant in fiercely waging a war against the Nigeria State, the thought of the sects’ members turning a new leaf is one that will have definitely confounded many.
But that is what it is: notorious commanders, leaders, together with the files of the two sects have been quitting the Boko Haram and ISWAP sects in droves. These ‘repentant’ terrorists are not only renouncing the membership of their sects alone, they are doing so with hundreds of their family members.
The Nigerian military, through Christopher Musa, Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, recently disclosed that about 17,000 insurgents have now surrendered to troops.
Musa, a Major General, disclosed this when he visited the management of the North East Development Commission (NEDC).
Musa said those who surrendered included persons “conscripted against their wish”, adding that the latest development has affected the plans of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) to adopt Boko Haram members.
Prior to the latest disclosure on the number of surrendered terrorists, arguments and counter-arguments have been traded concerning the security threats associated with reintegrating into the society, and giving amnesty to ex-Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters.
However, the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Lucky Irabor, have allayed the fears of the general public on the ongoing mass surrendering of the Boko Haram and ISWAP ex-fighters to troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces, in the North East.
Irabor, who holds the rank of a General in the Nigerian Army, allayed the fears in some quarters, during his ‘Chief of Defence Staff interactive session with Retired Senior Military Officers in the NE Geo-political Zone’, in Yola, Adamawa State.
The CDS, at the interactive session, expressed his appreciation to the citizens and residents of the North-East (NE) Region for genuinely supporting the ongoing intensive clearance operations by troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) towards the restoration of permanent peace in the Zone, even as he sought more cooperation.
Gen Irabor posited that the solutions to the NE security challenges lie in the region, as he was optimistic that the situation would get better and better in the days ahead.
On the recent fear and apprehension making rounds about the mass surrendering of BH/ISWAP ex-members, the CDS reassured residents and Nigerians in general to trust the relevant agencies that have been tasked with responsibilities of planning the rehabilitation of repented insurgents.
According to him, the AFN would deal with the matter for the good of the region, as there will be no loose ends.
The Defence Chief urged the military veterans to take full advantage of the security parley in evaluating the various military operations, as their patriotic and constructive assessment of the general security situation would add value to the ongoing actionable military offensive clearance operations.
In his words, “what remain very clear is the desire and will of the AFN to speedily turn around the fortune of the NE to a state where everyone will be happy again.”
The Chief of Defence Civil Military Cooperation (CDCIMIC), Rear Admiral Fredrick Ogu, urged the veterans to make useful contributions towards the goal of securing the NE zone and the country at large.
Earlier in his welcome address, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3 Division Nigerian Army (NA), Major General Ismaila Ali, who was represented by the Commander 23 Brigade NA, Brigadier General Aminu Garba commended the Defence Headquarters for the laudable initiative of tapping from the wealth of experience of the retired senior officers.
According to the GOC, the cross fertilization of ideas between the current leadership of the Armed Forces and its veterans was tailored to finding workable ideas in surmounting the contemporary security challenges bedeviling the Nation.
At the moment, there is no even a single case of those who called their time with Boko Haram and ISWAP returning to their old ways. Relevant authorities saddled with the Demobilization, Deradicalization and Integration (DDI) programme for ex-combatants must have since swung into action, to say the least.
The public therefore must give Gen. Irabor the benefit of doubt, and see reason with him that insurgents who were once ruthless, but are now ‘born-again’ are everything but threats to their society.
Mahmud Abdulsalam is an Editor with PRNigeria