…seeks prosecution of terrorists, sponsors
The Senate, yesterday, vehemently opposed Operation Safe Corridor, a programme of the Nigeria Army which focuses on the deradicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration of “repentant” Boko Haram terrorists.
The opposition to the handling of the terrorists in Nigeria came a day after six Nigerians were convicted by an Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for their sponsorship of Boko Haram.
It also came amidst the Federal Government’s clampdown on prominent Nigerian celebrities who took part in the recent #ENDSARS protest in which citizens were agitating for an end to police brutality.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly said it was particularly opposed to the aspect of the programme that seeks to resettle these exinsurgents in communities where they had previously wreaked havoc through kidnapping, killing and maiming of people. The lawmakers said it was rather insensitive to return them to such war ravaged communities and expect the inhabitants of those communities to accept them even while the dreaded terrorist group was still terrorising the people.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume (APC/Borno South) gave the position of the committee at a media briefing at the National Assembly, Abuja. Ndume spoke after a closed door session with the top hierarchy of the Nigeria Army during which the committee considered the budget proposals for the military in the 2021 Appropriation Bill.
The military delegation to the budget defence session was led by the Chief of Policy and Planning, Nigeria Army, Lieutenant General Lamidi Adeosun, who represented the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Yusuf Buratai.
The Committee canvassed that rather than pursuing a hurried programme of reintegration, the Nigeria Army should conduct thorough investigation of captured Boko Haram terrorists and ensure that they and their sponsors were prosecuted for their crimes.
Ndume, who spoke on behalf of other committee members, urged the Federal Government to keep the repentant insurgents in seclusion as prisoners of war who would also face the wrath of the law when the war against Boko Haram would have ended in the country. “We are still calling on the Nigerian government that those that are directly or indirectly involved in Boko Haram activities should be brought to book and used as an example.
I think we have not been up and doing on that. “I am in disagreement with the government on the issue of deradicalising and reintegrating Boko Haram repentants. I still maintain that you can’t be resettling these people, pampering them while the war is on.
The committee is on the same page and I believe many Nigerians are on the same page with us on this. “In my village, Mallams that are Muslims, not ordinary Muslims, but Mallams, elders above 60, quote me, 75 of them were taken to an abattoir and slaughtered by Boko Haram. Can you imagine that the Nigerian Army or the Nigerian Government is saying that because these people have gone to repent, or they say they have their hands up, you bring them back and pamper them?
“If you give IDPs here N150, 000 as pack, as they give them (Boko Haram repentants), I have 10,000 of them here—they are displaced, suffering. They know these people that killed their people; it is wrong.
“In addition to that, the recent attack in Dambowa was carried out by some ‘repentant’ Boko Haram giving information as to the movement of the Army. The general that was killed was a victim,” Ndume said. Meanwhile, the Committee has decried what it described as the abysmal poor funding of the military even in the face of the ongoing war against terrorism and other security challenges in the country.
Ndume lamented that only 83 per cent of the personnel cost of the Nigerian Army was released in the 2020 budget, wondering why the armed forces should be treated that way, in the face of the great task they are facing. He further decried a situation where the insurgents were operating with sophisticated and better weapons, alleging that the soldiers were operating with AK-47 while the terrorists were operating with AK-49 assault rifles. He said: “Only 83 per cent of their personnel cost was released to them.
Imagine people who are on the war front, trying to protect the country. “Worst of it, their capital, I mean money that is supposed to be given to them to buy the necessary equipment, arms and ammunition, secure kitting for the armed forces, only 64 per cent of that money was released. “On top of that, the 50 per cent was released in the first week of July. The second batch of it was released this week and Nigeria is at war. The whole of Nigerian Army budget is $1.3 billion.
That is at the level of Niger, Chad and Sudan and other poor countries. “In a period of war, where the country is borrowing and is planning to spend N13 trillion, government is budgeting less than N30 billion as capital for the Nigerian army. “What I see that is the difference between the Nigerian Army and the bandits is that the Nigerian Army is trained and they have uniform. Even at that, the bandits, some of them take away the uniform from the Nigerian Army or they buy it from the market.
“Some of the bandits have better AK-47. I think they have what they call AK-49, latest AK used by bandits and insurgents in the North East and North West. “I want to use this opportunity to tell you the Committee’s position, that as a matter of urgency… the budget of the Nigerian Army should be increased. “Not only that. We are advocating they should be front rolled. That means if they sign the budget, you give them the money so that they can start their procurement process because unlike other procurement that you can buy here, buy there, the Nigerian Army’s procurements have to be processed. Before you even finish the process, it takes a long time.”
However, Ndume assured Nigerians that the Senate would, in collaboration with the executive, increase the budget of the Army, to enable them function effectively. He said: “The three arms of government are supposed to work hand-in-hand. We have engaged the Nigerian Army and we are going to engage the Executive to make them understand that based on our oversight, what they budgeted, they need to increase the budget of the Nigerian Army.
“So far, we are on the same page with the Executive. We are going to work together and make them understand that there is a need. Some of them do these things and present it to Mr. President without him knowing the implications.