Much ado about ‘surrendered’ Boko Haram terrorists

Boko Haram insurgents have killed and maimed many in North-east, Nigeria; even as many others have been left homeless and without a means of livelihood. As the Nigerian Army continue to battle these insurgents with loses on their part, there is an outcry over re-integration of surrendered Boko Haram terrorists, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes.

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the ones before it have expended huge resources in the fight against insurgents, yet the war seems to be far from been over.

Nigerian Army (NA) as part of efforts to battle these insurgents recently took delivery of some military hardware, including two Super Tucano, and may have led to the twist in the fight against insurgency.

The NA on August 11, 2021, disclosed that over 1,000 members of Boko Haram and their families had so far surrendered to its troops.

According to the Army, this was due to the intense pressure from troops’ sustained offensive actions against the sect.

The Army Director of Public Relations, Onyema Nwachukwu, in a press statement, said key leaders of the terrorist group were among those who had turned themselves in.

He said the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, had advised all terrorist groups operating in the country to surrender to troops.

The statement titled: Re: Army to free two senior Boko Haram bomb experts after rehabilitation stated that, “Our attention has been drawn to a publication by some online news medium released in which the authors deliberately misrepresented the facts contained in that report and twisted it to suit whatever purpose they seek to achieve.

“While the Nigerian Army does not want to be distracted from its main focus of dealing decisively with the threats against peace-loving Nigerians, it has become necessary to put issues in their right perspectives.

“It is a known fact that, in the recent past, over 1,000 members of Boko Haram and their families have surrendered to the troops due to the intense pressure from troops’ sustained offensive actions. Among those were key leaders of the terrorist group who have renounced their membership and have turned themselves in.

“The NA being a professional military organisation will continue to act in accordance with the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution, as well as international best practices.

“It must be known that the NA will never encourage any act of lawlessness or extrajudicial killings. Accordingly, all surrendered terrorists will be received, processed and passed on to the relevant agencies of government for further assessment in line with extant provisions.

“The ongoing Operation Safe Corridor is an outfit established by the federal government and not the NA. As such, it is wrong to say that the NA will free repentant terrorists.

“The NA, therefore, appeals to the public to disregard the deliberate distortion of facts by these online mediums and continue to support the NA in order to rid the country of terrorism and other forms of insecurity.

“The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, has reiterated his admonition to all terrorist groups operating in the country to abandon their illegitimate cause and surrender to troops.”

Similarly, on August 16, 2021, the NA revealed that it received a fresh batch of over 200 repentant Boko Haram fighters and their family members in clearance operations last Saturday and Sunday in Borno state.

The Army Spokesperson in a press statement recently, said: “The current trend of apprehension in their camps was further aggravated by the recent alarming turn out of members of the terrorist group, who came out in droves with their families to lay down their arms and surrender to own troops at Mafa Local Government Area on 14 August 2021.

“A total of 186 Boko Haram terrorist members led by their Amir, Manye Aga, comprising 67 adult males, 54 adult females and 65 children, surrendered to troops of Operation HADIN KAI at Forward Operational Base (FOB) Ajiri.

“Items recovered from the surrendered terrorists include several AK 47 rifles and magazines, a locally made pistol and eight locally fabricated daggers.

“Similarly, on August 15, 2021, the Theatre took custody of additional Boko Haram fighters, comprising of four adult males, 11 adult females, and 18 children, from Landanli, Azah, Ngaridua and Kondilla villages, who surrendered to own troops of 151 Task Force Battalion, Banki Junction in Bama.”

Blueprint Weekend gathered that those who surrendered will go through the Safe Corridor programme which was launched in 2016 for the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and re-integration (DRR) of ex-insurgents in the country.

On the other hand, those who are familiar with military operations and those who have been following the onslaught against the terrorist group in the North-east hinted that more are likely to surrender in the coming days.

Insurgent’s re-integration’ll be difficult, if not impossible – Shehu of Borno

The Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, said the idea is a welcomed one, however, noting that the people would continue to be haunted by the horrors of the 12-year insurgency, especially residents of communities where the repentant insurgents are to be incorporated.

He said, “The Safe Corridor programme of the Army led to the de-radicalisation of repentant terrorists in Gombe state. But it will be very difficult if not impossible for us to reintegrate the repentant insurgents into our destroyed communities.

“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.”

According to the Shehu of Borno, “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 queried.

They must face trial – ACF

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has advised the federal government to prosecute Boko Haram members who have repented or surrendered.

ACF in a statement by the National Chairman of the forum, Audu Ogbeh, recalled that the insurgents were one-time bomb makers, commanders, arsonists, rapists and children snatchers.

The statement read in part, “We are currently witnessing large scale surrender of large numbers of Boko Haram insurgents, among whom are bomb makers, commanders, arsonists, rapists, and child snatchers. Do we have good reason to cheer and hope for an end to this decade-old insanity?

“I am sorry enough to bring relief to Nigerians and the thousands of dead and maimed? What of those victims bombed in the churches, mosques, schools, and markets?

“What of all the men and women in uniform murdered by them? Who can count the thousands of widows and orphans they have created? And what is the difference between them and the Ighoho’s or ESN of Nigeria? None.

“So, what do we do with them? Should we just embrace them and trust them wholesale? Are their moves informed by altruistic repentance? We seriously doubt it.

“We join the Governor of Borno, Babagana Umara Zulum; the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi; Senator Ali Ndume; and millions of Nigerians in pondering over this development and our simple advice is: Bring them to trial, or free all others presently in custody anywhere while we Nigerians plead guilty of naivety and gullibility in the extreme, punishable by more insurrection and anarchy.”

Surrender, deceit strategy says Ojo

A golden member of International security Association (ISA), Switzerland, Jackson Lekan Ojo, has said insurgent’s surrender was another Boko Haram deceit strategy that should not be tolerated by the government, the military and other concerned Nigerians.

Ojo explained that, “There are two major reasons that can be connected to the move to surrender by the insurgents. One is a tactical deceit strategy. Why do I say so, these people are not humane in any way, they don’t reason like humans.

“They have killed thousands of security personnel, ordinary citizens, medical practitioners and others. They have destroyed property worth trillions, they have rendered people homeless. They have caused serious food insecurity that is currently affecting Nigeria and may soon affect Africa.

“The death of their leader, Abubakar Shekau, was a great setback for them. They have now discovered that the military and paramilitary are overwhelming them now. They seriously killed them. So they came up with a strategy to deceive Nigerians by surrendering.

“No, such repentance is not acceptable. It is condemnable. If we forgive them and integrate them into society, they will serve as espionage and eavesdrop for the terrorist groups. In other to give a report back to their gangs for possible attacks,” he added.

Ojo added that, “These people are not militants, they are not agitators. If somebody like Sunday Igboho could be declared wanted, if somebody like Nnamdi Kanu was declared wanted and brought back into the country, these are agitators and not even terrorists. Why should we forgive Boko Haram terrorists? These are killers, destroyers and terror ideologies that are usually difficult to change.”

He warned that, “If the government and the military play into their hands with this their surrender strategy, honestly Boko Haram may take us by surprise. These are not people that you can re-indoctrinate.

“I am of the opinion that, the military and other security forces should continue the onslaught against these terrorists. Those who surrender, should be taken to court for them to face the consequences of their actions and feel the wrath of the law. Anything other than this, the government may regret.”

Good devt but must be managed well – Expert

Security Risk Management Expert and Managing Director Beacon Consulting LTD, Dr Kabir Adamu, said it was a good development but cautioned that it must be managed well to achieve the desired result.

Adamu said in a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend, “It is a good development. It has happened before; this is not the first time it’s happening. But we didn’t manage it well and so they came back again. They were able to renew themselves. So, the question is how are we managing it now?

“My honest opinion is that the way we are managing it now is not good. If care is not taken, what happened the previous time would happen again. Why do I say so? There is a lot of condemnation by Nigerians regarding the development. They are accusing the military of pampering them.”

Continuing, the security expert said, “Unfortunately, because the strategic communication has not been successful, Nigerians don’t even realise what the military is doing. Now you have an enemy that has possibly 9,000 operatives and you have a situation where 1,500 are surrendering. You should be happy because it means eventually you are going to win the war if you sustain the effort and more of them continue to surrender. But Nigerians don’t understand this.

“Another aspect is that Nigerians have forgotten that President Buhari administration created a ministry, which is Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, mainly to support victims of terrorism and other conflict or the disaster in the country. So when I hear officials, state governments, and other Nigerians saying that Buhari’s administration is pampering terrorists, it baffles me. Because of the department and ministry that are supposed to drive this strategic communication are not meeting up with the objectives.

“If they are, Nigerians will know that there is a ministry that is responsible for taking care of the victims and they will not accuse the government wrongly.

“What the military and the government is doing is not pampering, it is to encourage more of them to surrender. It is a positive development, that should be properly managed to avoid what happened in 2014/2015 may also repeat itself.”

On what should be done to achieve the desired objectives, he said, “The office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) that is responsible for that strategic communication should galvanise the agencies, ministries and department that have the responsibility, the ministry of information, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and state governments to ensure that the enlighten Nigerians more so that the aims of the counter-terrorism strategy can be achieved.

Nigerians should forgive – Analyst

Conversely, a public affairs commentator, Aminu Mohammed, has urged Nigerians to forgive Boko Haram members that surrendered, noting that, “It is a difficult thing to do but forgiveness is the best thing to do.”

In a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend, Mohammed said: “I have seen pictures of those who surrendered and so many stories in form of reaction to this development. Perhaps, some Nigerians have forgotten this battle has been on for about 12 years, and billions of naira have been spent; property have been lost and many lives have been lost. So, this has caused Nigerians so many things.

He continued, “In a situation like this, there are so many ways that are even acceptable at the global level of handling issues like this. It is okay to use force, but also acceptable to accept those who surrender and de-radicalise them before integrating them into society.

“The Nigeria Army and the federal government are not the first to start this approach. It is a known approach.

“It is a good thing that many members of the Boko Haram members are surrendering. It is good because the onslaught by the military alone cannot solve the problem, this will also help to put an end to the crisis.

“However, considering what Nigerians, especially those in the North-east have gone through in the hands of the insurgents, it is okay if they are afraid of forgiving and also accepting the de-radicalised sect members into their community.”

Stop negative narratives, Lai Mohammed sues

The federal government has advised against negative and false narratives around surrendering sect members.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in an interview, Friday in Washington, described as “false and demoralising’’ the claim in certain quarters that the surrendered insurgents would be recruited into the Nigerian military.

He said rather than changing the narratives, President Buhari and the military should be respectfully commended for their resourcefulness and doggedness respectively in the fight against insurgency.

“The fact that we are witnessing insurgents submitting in droves calls for commendation of our military for their doggedness.

“We must not forget, two months ago, Nigerians were putting pressure on the President to recruit mercenaries to fight the war against terror because they said we were losing the war.

“The President, however, remained focused and confident in his belief in the Nigerian military that they have what it takes to defeat the insurgents.

“We were able to achieve this, largely because of the leadership of Mr President in providing the wherewithal continually to the military and ensuring that their fighting morale is sustained by way of welfare packages,’’ he said.

The minister said it was unfortunate and inconceivable that some Nigerians would be going about with fake news that the surrendered insurgent would be engaged into the military.

Mohammed added that the call for the prosecution and killing of the repentant militants rather than granting them amnesty was against global best practices.

“I personally spoke to the military authority before I left Nigeria and they said what they were doing is what the global practice dictates about soldiers that surrendered that should be treated as prisoners of war.

“You cannot just shoot them because there are international conventions that give rights also to prisoners of war.

“What the military is doing is that, when they surrender, they profile them to ensure that they are genuine and reintegrate them into the society,’’ he said.