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SURRENDER OF 1000 SUSPECTED TERRORISTS: Why surrendered B’Haram members should be treated as prisoners of war –General

‘It’s provocative, they should be monitored for 5 years’
FG can’t continue to pamper criminals while IDPs languish in camps –Ezeife, senior lawyers
Exercise’ll compound already precarious security situation, says Ejiofor

Retired generals, lawyers and other stakeholders have expressed their views on how 1,000 members of the Boko Haram terrorist group, who recently surrendered to the Nigerian Army, should be treated by the Federal Government. The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) had, last Thursday, disclosed that “no fewer than 1,000 terrorists and their families, comprising adult females and children surrendered to our troops at different locations in the North East.”

While the thinking is that the Federal Government pampers repentant members of the terrorist group, the Generals and other stakeholders have advised the government to punish the repentant members of the terrorist group to serve as deterrence to others rather than treating them with kid gloves.

In his comment, Brigadier Gen. John Sura (rtd) said that the Federal Government should treat the repentant Boko Haram members as prisoners of war. Speaking to Saturday Telegraph in Jos, Gen. Sura said that they should be treated in such a way as to bring true repentance and dignity to human life.

“Treat 1000 repentant BH members as Prisoners Of War (POWs) but with modifications, as POWs under Geneva Convention have some privileges like protection against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults and public curiosity. ‘However, the case of POWs is a defined war against the state and areas of conflict stated; as such surrendered personnel could be treated humanely and accepted in the society.

In the case of repentant Boko Haram, they should be treated as people DAILY TELEGRAPH PUBLISHING COMPANY LIMITED Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief Ayodele Aminu Ag. Editor n Juliet Bumah Ag. Editor, Sunday n Geoffrey Ekenna Editor, Saturday n Vincent Eboigbe Deputy Editor/News Editor n Ndubuisi Ugah Bureau Chief, Abuja n Onwuka Nzeshi Bureau Chief, Brussels n Leo Cendrowicz Bureau Chief, Washington DC n Marshall Comins Editorial Coordinator, Europe n Sam Amsterdam Business Development Manager n Dipo Ariyo Sales/Circulation Manager n Uchey Okezie Head, Admin. n Robinson Ezeh Chief Accountant n Okereocha Emmanuel imprisoned with hard labour to serve as deterrence. “Imprisonment with hard labour which defines minimum condition for detentions such as accommodation, feeding, medical, food and clothing etc should not be in consonance with the Geneva Convention.

I will therefore suggest that the repentant Boko Haram fighters should be treated lower than the provisions given to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)”. Reacting to the development, a retired Brigadier General, Godwin Anyalemechi, said that efforts by authorities to rehabilitate and reintegrate the ex-combatants were provocative, considering “the fact that their murderous activities had sent over a million to internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps across the country.” In a similar vein, a retired State Director of the State Security Service (SSS), Mr. Mike Ejiofor, expressed strong reservations over the policy driven by Operation Safe Corridor.

While not kicking against their reabsorption into civil society, Anyalemechi urged the relevant authorities to subject the surrendered terrorist suspects to monitoring for at least five years. “On the side of the society, it is provocative. This is because most of these people have committed a series of murders in the society,” Anyalemechi said. According to him: “One, they should be given special reformatory training to come back to normal human beings.

“If all of them will be employed in the agricultural sector where they will be working and tutored by the Nigerian security agency it will be better, not just reintegrating them and leaving them free to go about or give them money to go and do something.

“They should be monitored for at least five years, and how do you monitor them? Put them in any federal ministry where they will be monitored and be sure of what they are doing for five good years. Surely, that rebellious act must have left them.

“Not just ordinary training and giving them money to go back to rebel camp and continue to terrorise us; let them be kept under concentration; give them basic training and let them be guided by military authorities or security agencies. “If it is mining, agriculture or any other place, let them be there to work for the Federal Government for five years before you can think of giving them any sense of independence”.

Ejiofor, on his part, stated that the ex-terrorists might not have been properly debriefed to necessitate their reintegration even after surrendering. His words: “I completely disagree that they should be released into the society. These are people, whose status you have not even determined, and the military claimed that the heat has been turned on them. They have not been properly debriefed. I’m very sure of that.

So, releasing them or giving them amnesty now is going to compound the already precarious security challenge, because they will mix with the people and begin to cause more mayhem”. Also commenting, a former Anambra State governor, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, described the planned reabsorption of the surrendered Boko Haram members into the society as a slap on the faces of Nigerians.

He said; “What are we talking about? The Boko Haram members who have been involved in genocide and waste of human lives are claiming to have repented and surrendered and the government believes them and now wants to reabsorb them into our society, for what? “What becomes of the families who lost their loved ones, who were displaced from their homes and are languishing in that death traps called Internally Displaced Person’s Camps?” Ezeife lamented that the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), led by Mazi Nnamd Kanu, are not terrorists, yet the organisation and its members are being dealt with and killed in their numbers. “When a government selects, picks and chooses who to forgive or dialogue with and who to punish; it speaks volumes of selective justice and nepotism.” Some senior lawyers also spoke against the reintegration of the repentant members of the terrorist group.

The lawyers, Dr. Fassy Yusuf, Mr. Wale Ogunade and Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, said that the ex-Boko Haram members should be treated as criminals and be prosecuted because they have inflicted a lot of pains and hardship on the populace. Dr. Fassy Yusuf said that the repented terrorists should first be made to pay for their sins before their reintegration into the society. He said: “The 1000 Boko Haram members that were said to have surrendered to the Nigerian Army should not be treated as refugees or ordinary Nigerians, but as criminals. They brought war, hardship and disaster on this country.

“They have also wasted people’s lives, property and other resources of the country. So, they should first of all be tried according to the law and they should serve their punishment if they are found guilty. Justice will not be served if they are just reabsorbed into the society. They deserve to be prosecuted and thereafter they can be reintegrated to the society”. On his part, Mr. Wale Ogunade cautioned the Federal Government against reintegrating the surrendered terrorists into the society saying it might be suicidal. “A criminal is a criminal. The repented terrorists will continue to be Boko Haram members because they have been so indoctrinated.

As far as I am concerned, they will infiltrate the Army and cause more mayhem and havoc on the Army and the society at large. “What gives us the idea that their action is not a strategy to infiltrate the Army’s rank? To me, the government should be very careful and take wise counsel,” Ogunade said. Also speaking, a rights activist, Mr. Kabir Akingbolu, called for the prosecution of the repented terrorists, saying that the nation should not be cajoled by their decision to surrender.

He said: “If Boko Haram terrorists, who have murdered close to 300,000 innocent Nigerians can be pardoned, then all IPOB captives and Yoruba nation agitators must be released and pardoned too because what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. To do otherwise would amount to complete discrimination and favouritism of the northerners against the southerners. There are no two ways about it. “Besides, the issue of Boko Haram surrendering to the Nigerian Army is not new at all, but a recurring decimal in the nation’s fight against insurgency and terrorism.

However, how real and helpful can this purported surrendering be? To me, I think it’s not safe to trust them just like that without some level of assurances and certainty. “This is because before any criminal or terrorist can be assimilated back to the society, it requires a lot of processes which include, but not limited to de-radicalization, training in civility and peaceful coexistence, reorientation, re-assimilation, psychological readjustments and systemic socialization. It is after all these are done that we can be talking of any reintegration.

“Without all these, releasing them to the society is dangerous and highly unsafe. We have record in the past when some supposed repentant Boko Haram terrorists were caught giving information to their erstwhile group.” Speaking on the matter with one of our correspondents, an Abuja based lawyer, Chief Olisa Ighodaro, stated that the surrendered Boko Haram members should not be pampered but be treated as terrorists.

“The Federal Government cannot be resettling and pampering former terrorists while the country is still at war. “Boko Haram members who surrendered can be kept as prisoners of war, and in due time they can be profiled and tried in accordance with the law.

”How are we sure that the acclaimed surrendered members have repented. There are instances that terrorist attacks were orchestrated by repentant members. There are also instances that a repentant Boko Haram member was feeding the terror group information regarding the movement of the army.” Another lawyer and public analyst, Segun Olawore, stressed that whoever championed the cause of granting amnesty to Boko Haram members should be called to order. “Millions of people have been displaced, soldiers have been killed, yet the FG is trying to re-integrate those that perpetuate the heinous act. They should be given capital punishment instead.

“Jail is where criminals get rehabilitated, but it appears these repentant Boko Haram members were never even charged to court. “This is a reflection of the kind of irresponsible and reckless leaders we have in government. I wonder if being law-abiding and upright is worth anything in this country. “What message is the Federal Government sending out by this action? Are they saying that if we commit felony or treason, we will be set free easily in as much as we are repentant?” However, another lawyer, AbdulHamed Abdul Malik has a different view as he noted that the reintegration of repentant Boko Haram members and other detained persons are parts of the fight against Boko Haram. “The FG should lead the activities to support the individual transformation and peaceful reintegration of the repented Boko Haram prisoners.

“The process of reintegration is extremely sensitive and requires appropriate support, and it is an opportunity to develop the skills needed to return to life in the community. “The FG should use a multi-dimensional approach to support the individual and collective transformation of the Boko Haram repentant members and detainees through various activities, such as group discussions, participatory theatre, mobile cinema sessions, sports, and psychosocial therapy. “The activities will reduce the participants’ stress, improve their physical and mental health, create positive relationships, and help participants relearn the communities’ rules and habits.

“Furthermore, the project will provide social capacity- building activities and vocational training to increase socio-professional opportunities for the repentant and surrendered members. “In my own opinion, the project will strengthen social cohesion in the communities by improving access to information about the reintegration of the repented and alleged Boko Haram detainees.”

 

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