On The Release And Re-integration Of 601 Ex-boko Haram Members Into The Society

By Segun Ogunlade

On Saturday 25th July, 2020, the Nigerian Army said 601 ex-Boko Haram members would be re-integrated into the society. According to the Nigerian Army, the 601 have undergone six months of de-radicalisation, rehabilitation, and reintegration. According to Bamidele Shafa, the Coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor (OSC), the ex-Boko Haram members have denounced their membership of Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, confessed their deeds, and took an oath of allegiance to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The fact that the Federal Government could agree to do a thing like this makes light the evil embedded in terrorism. Perhaps the Federal Government thought this as a form of amnesty for the terrorists who the Nigerian military have been trying hard to contain. But in the real sense, it is more of an act of cowardice and a slap on the wrist for those who decided to take up arms against their country for no reason.

When Niger Delta militants were vandalising pipelines and causing insurrection, it was because they were marginalised in the sharing of the country’s wealth. Since that time, there have been the formation of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and many Niger Deltans were given amnesty and the derivation formula have been reconstructed to make sure the Niger Delta states gets more revenue than they used to get. Unlike Boko Haram, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and other militant group were not responsible for the death of innocent citizens on a large scale level. They were violent but not in the same mode as Boko Haram. While militancy in the Niger Delta was because of how the region was treated by the government, Boko Haram insurgency on the other hand is not related to anything the government did wrong against the people living in the North East. Thus, for me, why the members of such a terrorist organization should be released upon apprehension is devoid of good military intelligence. As a matter of fact, it is a roundabout way of the government saying to the terrorists “we know we can’t defeat you as a nation, therefore surrender your arms and go home in peace because your sins are forgiven and no man will ever charge you for terrorism.”

When this talk about re-integrating ex-Boko Haram soldiers into the society started, one Senator had hinted that one of them could one day become the president of Nigeria. Besides, some are allowed to join the Nigerian military. This shows that the Nigerian Government has high hopes for these people who have committed a crime against the country. Apart from that been a disturbing fact, I am worried about the mental condition of Nigerian soldiers when they see that the men that had killed some of them are now allowed to walk freely. It ridicules the fight against insurgency and could dampen anyone’s morale. I wonder how easy it would be for a soldier to stand shoulder to shoulder with a man that has killed someone he knew.

Sometimes, when Nigerian soldiers were killed, it was not only because they had a bad day, but also because they have no weaponry that could match those of the insurgents. Now, the same government that did not provide enough arms for the soldiers to fight insurgency is now the same one forgiving those that have killed many men in the Nigerian Army and several other civilians. This move is ridiculous and it is obvious this government is not serious about the fight against insurgency just yet. After all, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant Tukur Yusuf Buratai had said Nigerians were not ready to see terrorism and insurgency end yet. How sad!

With the decision to allow these 601 ex-Boko Haram members, one could ask how sure the government is that they have changed and ready to bring peace. These are people that had been fighting to take it away peace from the country. For all it worth, they could have feigned all the actions that the Nigerian Army sees as repentance. After all, they are not in the minds of these people to see if they have truly changed. For me, someone that could take up arms against his country for no reason could not be trusted to be a penitent simply because he had undergone a rehabilitation process. We have seen people suffer relapse after rehabilitation and there is no guarantee that none of these 601 would not go back to his old ways. As they say, old habits die hard.

Now that it was said that the 601 ex-Boko Haram members have acquired different skills and would be provided funds and starter packs to enable start a living and start new lives get back to the society they have terrorised, how did they expect the people to receive them? Should the people be happy that they have changed and ready to be part of them and suffer from terrorism that they have been suffering from for over a decade? I doubt that. I wonder how people would feel having people that have killed members of their family live as next door neighbours and watch them walk freely on the street as if they have done nothing wrong. The implication of that is that people who have suffered from terrorism are now being forced to live with those used to terrorise them. That is a hard fact to deal with by anyone.

Another bad side of this move by the Federal Government is that terrorists are now given a soft landing for all they have done. They would now evade justice because they renounced Boko Haram and merely confess their allegiance to the Nigerian state. These are some of the people that killed innocent citizens and soldiers alike, kidnapped and raped women and had forced thousands of people out of their homes thereby living in fear on a daily lives.

The way I see it, people could now take up arms against the country in the hope of getting economic empowerment when they show remorse. Then that would ridicule the intent of the government. People would forward and claim they are Boko Haram members, renounce the membership of a group they never belong to and then go back home with goodies from the government. What a way to fight insurgency!

If this is the best the Federal Government could to fight insurgency at this period, then it is very saddening. That the military now had to rely on terrorists to lay down their arms and have them re-integrated into the society before they could be wiped out shows how much the country is failing in the fight against terrorism. How many terrorists do the government hope to take in for de-radicalisation, rehabilitation, and reintegration before the terrorism would be completely wiped out? This is an act of cowardice from the military.

I don’t expect the government to think all the terrorists would lay down their arms, embrace peace and join the rehabilitation programme. If they are expecting it, it would never happen. Hence, the Nigerian Army needs to tighten its belt and not wait for the enemies to lay down their arms before conquering them. They have dealt with the people severely and should be given a dose of their own medicine. Taking up arms against one’s country should not be condoned in the name of de-radicalisation, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The worst thing the government could do for people living in the North East at this time is to allow ex-Boko Haram members live in their midst because their sins had been forgiven. It is a not wise decision and will never be.

Terrorists will always be terrorists and they should be treated as one. If the Nigerian military lacks tactics, it should say it instead of re-integrating terrorists back to the society they once terrorised. I don’t suppose they want both the terrorists and the people they would be living it henceforth would do so in peace and cordiality with one another. The people would never grow over the suspicions that they could be attacked when the chips are down.

Nigeria needs to do more than forcing its citizens to live with decisions that are not palatable and not leave us under the impression that the war could not be won without making peace with the terrorists as a matter of supreme urgency. Letting the terrorists go without been punished is a not a good was to go and it should be stopped before we have a society full of repentant terrorists.

The Nigerian military should for no reason appear as culprits in this matter. Why the Niger Delta militants were given amnesty was because the government knew it had been unfair to the people of that region although militancy is not something that should be excused. But at least we all knew what their fight was about. That is not the case with Boko Haram. If the government agrees to let ex-member walk away freely without facing justice, it is because it has conceded guilt in why they took up arms against the country. But we all know that is not the case. The military is supposed to be courageous than all of us. And it should act as such. When people erred, they should be punished.

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