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We demand justice for victims of Boko Haram terrorists

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It would amount to monumental injustice to the souls of the estimated 350,000 persons killed, their loved ones and millions of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs currently wallowing in penury at various camps for the blood thirsty Boko Haram now turned repentant terrorists to be forgiven their sins and reintegrated into the society without been made to face the full wrath of the law.

We also, totally disagree with the rash manner in which the chief proponent of amnesty for the terrorists and their collaborators, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state is pursuing the dangerous exercise, which is coming a few months after he (Zulum) publicly denounced the Operation Safe Corridor, an initiative of the Nigerian military for the deradicalisation and rehabilitation of ex-Boko Haram fighters and their commanders launched in 2016 with a view to re-absorbing them into the larger society.

It would be recalled that Zulum while speaking at the North-East Governors’ Forum meeting in Bauchi, argued vigorously that the scheme needed to be reviewed speedily on several grounds, including that some of the ex-Boko Haram members pretending to have repented, only come to spy on communities, return to join the group, re-strategize and launch more deadly attacks on the people.

For him then, “It has been confirmed that the concept of deradicalisation or Safe Corridor is not working as expected. Quite often, those who have passed through the Safe Corridor initiative, or have been deradicalised, usually go back and rejoin the terror group after carefully studying the various security arrangements in their host communities, during the reintegration process.

“In addition, the host communities where the reintegration process is going on usually resent the presence of Boko Haram terrorists, even if they have been deradicalised, because of the despicable and atrocious activities they have committed in the past.

Continuing, “So the idea of deradicalisation, as currently being implemented, needs to be reviewed because the main goals and the underlying objectives behind the initiative are not being achieved.”

We further observed for the record and posterity too, that Zulum had proffered that the best option to decisively address the challenge posed by the repentant terrorists was to immediately prosecute the insurgents in accordance with the Terrorism  Act.

Specifically, he advocated that only those who the authorities adjudged were forcefully recruited but have been rescued or have escaped from the group, should be the ones to undergo the deradicalisation and shouldn’t be an all comers affair, lamenting however, that the delay in prosecuting the repentant insurgents must be tackled headlong.

“On the prosecution of terrorists, we must make efforts to avoid the current encumbrances and intricacies associated with the process, which usually takes considerable time, by urging the appropriate federal authorities to devolve the powers of the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation to state attorneys-general in order to facilitate the prosecution process, “ he further recommended.

But we find it baffling and  unacceptable that, the same governor recently hurriedly hosted a stakeholders’ summit in Maiduguri, Borno state capital for a new road map to the devastated Home of Peace without coming up with a full proof solution and carrying along other states ravaged by the terrorists.

Sadly, it is imperative to highlight that a recent  United Nations, UN report estimates that the 12-year conflict in the Northeast Nigeria has contributed to the deaths of nearly 350,000 people – more than 90percent  of whom are women and children with hundreds more, including over 100 Chibok shool girls kidnapped in 2014 and Leah Sharibu still languishing in captivity.

Similarly, even Zulum, last week while bemoaning the negative consequences of the bloody campaign by the sect, which is radically opposed to Western education claimed that 100,000 of Borno citizens were among the dead and expressed his administration’s dilemma over the fate of the repentant terrorists.

As a matter of fact,  since  the deadly Islamist group Boko Haram launched its first attacks in 2009, over two million people are estimated to have fled their homes in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in Northeast Nigeria to seek haven in IDPs camps while agricultural production had been substantially disrupted. Facilities such as health centres, schools, churches and markets have also not been spared by the rampaging insurgents who want to enthrone Islamic government in conquered territories.

We are therefore, worried by the rush in which  the Borno state government under Zulum wants to embrace the so-called repentant killers whose genuineness, real motives have certainly not been deciphered by the relevant authorities and regional partners in the conflict that had engulfed parts of Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon and left properties worth billions of naira in ruins.

In our opinion, it is unacceptable and stand reason on the head for terrorists who have actively been involved in deadly campaign, including maiming, arson, and general destruction, bombed innocent people in  the churches, mosques, schools, and markets, as well as murder men and women in uniform, created thousands of widows and orphans to suddenly wake up saying they are regretting their past actions.

We insist that Zulum  and his administration, should also be very conscious that these terrorists are driven by  what has turned out to be twisted, hateful, and murderous ideology and beliefs under the pretense of Islam for which they must be purged first after they are made to account for crimes committed against humanity.

Again, since Boko Haram literally means western education is evil especially for Muslim women and girls, clearly, it will take some time to properly profile and separate the hundreds of repentant insurgents now in custody and those who were forced to join forces with them among them women and children before prosecution.

Nobody should make any mistake that the born again terrorists are retracing their steps voluntarily but rather their volte face was informed by the fact that they could no longer withstand the superior firepower and intensity of our gallant military who continue to confront the killers ceaselessly in addition to overwhelming famine, discontent, internal skirmishes, health challenges as well as untold hardship in the enemy camps.

It is also very unfortunate and ironical that the same citizens who have been at the receiving end of the murderous campaign of the insurgents are the same people including the taxpayers,  that will bear the financial burden of the proposed ill-advised re-integration of their attackers  and perhaps give them the same Western education for which they have been killing and maiming hundreds of innocent and peace loving citizens.

Till date, no fewer than 5,890 terrorists and their families have so far surrendered to troops of Operation Hadin Kai, in the North East due to the recent intensity of military fire power according to Defence Headquarters even as the troops have sustained their operations against the terrorists relentlessly. Out of this figure, 565 of the surrendered terrorists, three commanders, four Amirs, five Nakibs and five cattle rustling specialists had been handed over to Borno government for further management after profiling while seven terrorists collaborators/informants and logistics suppliers were also arrested and handed over to appropriate prosecuting agencies for necessary actions.

However, we commend the Nigeria military for their recent string of victories against the terrorists and further challenge them to intensify the ongoing offensive against the remaining ISWAP and Boko Haram fighters , especially on their enclaves and environs. There must be concerted efforts too, to recover all firearms and offensive weapons used by the repentant insurgents so that they don’t pose serious security threat in the future as one cannot rule out their toeing the path of the Taliban in Afghanistan who has just toppled a legitimate government in that country.

Above all, since insecurity has been attributed to government failure or collapse of governmental institutions; feeling of inequalities, marginalization, injustice; weak and inadequate security system; lack of appropriate equipment and technology to fight insurgency and crime; weak intelligence gathering mechanism, corruption and loss of value system, the time is apt for Nigerians to rise up and build a new nation where no man or woman, group or section is oppressed,  tribe, tongue or religion wouldn’t matter, talent,  and where truth, justice and equity reign supreme. Given the vicious atrocities perpetrated by the terrorists, some of whom were bomb makers, commanders, fighters, arsonists, rapists, child snatchers and kidnappers, we totally agree with the stand of the apex northern group – Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF that there should be  no mercy but a full-scale trial for the ‘repentant’ Boko Haram members for justice to be truly served for war victims.

And since the prosecutorial power firmly lies with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, we challenge the Federal authorities to disregard the recent outcome of the meeting of Borno stakeholders, attended by many government functionaries, religious and traditional rulers, security operatives and members of the civil society detailing their resolve to accept the repentant insurgents before they are absorbed into various communities.

We further demand that the law must fully take its course and every offender, law breaker and their collaborators must be made to face the full music and charged to court after thorough profiling by the relevant authorities in order to differentiate the criminals from the innocent ones as well as guide against a dangerous precedent of setting free murderers, arsonists and rapist who constitute serious threat to the larger  society.

 

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