In Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, a 12-year battle began between Nigerian security forces and members of the dreaded Islamic sect Boko Haram, which has spread across the Northeast region, killing over 30,000 innocent citizens and displacing over three million people from their ancestral homes. This conflict has altered many things not only in Borno State but throughout the country, as many homes have experienced the insurgency’s effects.
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While hearing the number of terrorists surrendering to the Nigerian military is heartening, it was noted that the Nigerian authorities should proceed with caution when receiving the so-called repentant terrorists.
Residents of Borno have greeted the new development with mixed emotions, considering the other side of the conflict. The Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, spoke for many residents who had suffered and are still bearing the brunt of the 12-year insurgency, which is still counting as terrorists attempted to overrun Damboa town in Borno recently.
Residents and security personnel believe that hunger or a lack of food supplies are not the only factors driving terrorists to surrender.
“There has to be something done about the influx of terrorists who are bringing their wives and children along as human shields. I have no doubts about our military’s capabilities, but it is our politicians’ folly that matters here because they can put pressure on the military to release terrorists for political gain at the expense of our people who are in desperate need of food and water. Ibrahim Audi, a Maiduguri resident, made the observation.
Muktar Salim, a staff member at one of Maiduguri’s higher institutions, told DAILY POST that over 1000 Boko Haram terrorists had surrendered to troops.
” What is the location of these terrorists? What is the government’s strategy for dealing with this situation? If these terrorists are here to stay, I will be relieved for all of us. However, if they have a hidden agenda, I am concerned that they may be agents preparing to take over the state from within. As a result, the government should not rush to release them into the communities, as this could result in a serious disaster.”
The influx of surrendering terrorists, according to Mohammed Kabir Suleiman, is similar to what is currently happening in Afghanistan. According to him, some Taliban have come out to denounce terrorism and have been allowed to freely move among the people, but as the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan’s government, they will no longer be able to stop them.
“What is happening in Afghanistan today is terrifying. Terrorists who had previously surrendered and lived in the cities now occupied by the Taliban are the same people who paved the way for the fighters to sweep through these cities like wildfire, according to reports. Nigeria and our military should not allow such a mistake to occur because it will be a disaster far worse than what we have seen in the past, especially given the terrorists’ war knowledge and experience, he said.
“Surrendering to the military; was a welcome development for both the State Government and victims of terrorism,” the Shehu of Borno said.
According to him, the Army’s Safe Corridor programme resulted in the deradicalization of repentant terrorists in Gombe State. However, reintegrating repentant insurgents into destroyed communities will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Borno citizens.
“Bama township and its College of Education were flattened by Boko Haram in September 2014,” the Shehu said, referring to the destruction of Bama town, one of the state’s most populous towns.
He noted that people’s fear of the 12-year insurgency is still present and will continue to haunt members of the communities where the surrendered terrorists will be reintegrated.
“In the over a decade insurgency in my emirate, which encompasses 16 Local Government Areas in the state, 13 district heads and many ward heads were killed. It is easy to forgive the loss of many lives and property, but it is difficult to forget the needless deaths in my Chiefdom’s various communities,” the royal father said.
“For 12 years, many people were killed along with their property. And you, the people, and the media expect us to forget and forgive the repentant terrorists?” he enquired, citing a local who had lost eight members of his family to Boko Haram. “If the repentant terrorists kill the entire family, the survivor will undoubtedly seek vengeance from the reintegrated insurgents wherever he goes or lives in the country,” he said.
As a result, he warned that allowing repentant terrorists to live in their respective communities will be difficult and risky, especially while the people are still suffering from trauma, hunger, diseases, and bloodshed from unrepentant terrorists still operating in the state.
Another key point raised by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume, regarding the surrendering of Boko Haram fighters was that no blanket amnesty or pampering should be given to the terrorists.
Ndume urged Nigerian authorities to ensure that citizens who had been afflicted by the conflict were compensated. “Now is the time for the country to start talking about how to reintegrate those who have wreaked havoc and are now begging for mercy.”
The first step, according to Ndume, should be the resettlement of about 1.7 million displaced people after the terrorists have surrendered. “Now that the war is winding down, we’re talking about profiling, investigating, and questioning the surrendered terrorists from the forest and Lake Chad region,” he said.
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