A fresh crisis looms in the country as stakeholders yesterday rejected a move by the Senate to establish an agency to make life comfortable for ‘repentant’ Boko Haram terrorists irrespective of their wanton destruction of lives and property.
Specifically, ignoring persistent public outcry against the release of the suspected insurgents, the Senate has begun a legislative process to grant amnesty to the terrorists.
This, the lawmakers plan to achieve by passing a bill for an Act tagged “National Agency for Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria 2020, SB. 340.”
The bill is being sponsored by the immediate past governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam, who now represents Yobe East Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
It was learnt that proponents of this legislation believe that the Boko Haram suspects, who had inflicted unprecedented torture on and killed thousands of innocent citizens, particularly in the northern part of the country, should be made to enjoy what beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty for Niger Delta militants have been enjoying.
Accordingly, the bill, the first reading of which got automatic passage on the floor of the Senate yesterday, seeks to give immediate legal backing for repentant insurgents to be integrated into the society.
The main objectives are:
• to provide an avenue for rehabilitating, de-radicalizing, educating and reintegrating the defectors, repentant and detained members of the insurgent group, Boko Haram, to make them useful members of the society. It also aims at providing an avenue for reconciliation and promoting national security;
• to provide an-open-door and encouragement for other members of the group who are still engaged in the insurgency to abandon the group, especially in the face of the military pressure;
• to give the government an opportunity to derive insider-information about the insurgents for greater understanding of their group and its inner workings;
• to enable government gain greater understanding of the insurgents and enable the government to address the immediate concerns of violence and study the needs of de-radicalization effort to improve the process of de-radicalization; and
• to help disintegrate the violent and poisonous ideology that the group spreads as the programme will enable some convicted or suspected terrorists to express remorse over their actions, repent and recant their violent ideology and re-enter mainstream politics, religion and society.
Critics of the exercise pointed out that whereas victims of the Boko Haram attacks had remained substantially neglected in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps to the evils of rape, hunger, malnutrition and other socio-economic vices, the Federal Government has turned its attention to providing safe havens for those who maimed and killed.
Former Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, whose senatorial district has been the most affected by the Boko Haram insurgents’ attacks, said last month that more work was required to be done for the victims.
“About 1.7 million people have been displaced in Borno alone. The value of the damage is about $9.6 billion in Borno alone. About 60,000 children are orphaned. Only God knows how many children are out of school, have no access to water, food and means of livelihood. The humanitarian crisis that is coming after the war may be more dangerous than the war itself. The insurgency is going into its 10th year. Some children haven’t been in school in the last 10 years and we know what that means,” he lamented.
The Defence Headquarters had, in the heat of criticisms against the release and rehabilitation of Boko Haram suspects, tried to justify the action.
The Acting Defence spokesman, Brig-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said last week that the initiative was only targeted at low-risk Boko Haram members, who were not captured during combat.
About 1,400 ‘repentant’ Boko Haram suspects, who were in detention, were recently released and resettled into the society by the military.
Nwachukwu explained: “In 2016, the Federal Government initiated Operation Safe Corridor (OSC) to de-radicalise repentant members of Boko Haram. It is not anything that is done haphazardly. The target audience are not those captured in combat. No!
“Those captured in combat are processed for prosecution, but the ones that have not been ideologically indoctrinated because they were conscripted, they were abducted, are the ones being rehabilitated. They call them low-risk combatants. Those ones do not buy into Boko Haram agenda; they were forced into it. These repentant members have been assisting the military by providing intelligence on Boko Haram’s activities.”
The Senate Committee on Business and Rules has been directed to schedule the bill for general debate after which it would be passed at second reading and third reading.