IDPs angry as Borno govt plans reintegration of 1,000 ‘repentant’ Boko Haram fighters

IDPs angry as Borno govt plans reintegration of 1,000 ‘repentant’ Boko Haram fighters

•Ex-generals caution govt, urge surveillance

The decision by the Borno State Government to reintegrate over 1,000 repentant Boko Haram fighters into society has generated annoyance by some Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East.

The IDPs’ anger is based on the fact that they are still languishing in pain and sorrow caused by the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East, particularly in Borno State, the epicentre of the insurgency.

Since its campaign to create an Islamic caliphate started around 2009, the Boko Haram sect has reportedly killed over 70,000 people and displaced about 2.5 million people, according to estimates by the International Crisis Group.

Of the displaced, at least 250,000 have reportedly left Nigeria and fled into the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, though Borno State has started receiving some repatriated refugees from the countries.

Military onslaught on the terrorists has reportedly led to the deaths of many of the insurgents, while some of them have reportedly surrendered to the army.

In the latest development on Tuesday, the Nigerian Army in a statement by its spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu, announced that no fewer than 1,000 Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (a Boko Haram offshoot) members had laid down their arms and surrendered to the troops.“All surrendered terrorists will be received, processed and passed on to the relevant agencies of government for further assessment in line with extant provisions,” excerpts from the statement read.

In reaction, the Borno State Government has welcomed the over 1,000 repentant insurgents, saying it is ready to accept and reintegrate them into society.

The state Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, Mr Babakura Jatau, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, also urged the host communities to accept the ex-fighters as one of them.

Jatau said the “repentance” of the Boko Haram/ISWAP fighters might be the beginning of the end to the insurgency which the country and particularly the state had battled for over a decade.

He said, “At the end of every war, there is reconciliation. Every single war is not ended by the power of the bullet and bomb. They (insurgents) are part and parcel of us. They have surrendered; they are radicalised and they now realise their mistakes.

“Remember, we have been dealing with this problem for the past 13 years. For the past 13 years, the Federal Government has been battling with this insurgency without any peaceful resolution through firepower.

“They (ex-fighters) voluntarily surrendered their arms. There is nothing to do but to accept them and appeal to members of the public to accept them so that they (ex-terrorists) can reintegrate into society because there are many of them in the bush.”Jatau argued that if the terrorists in the bush saw that those who surrendered were accepted by the people, they would also surrender.

“For us, it means this is the end to the insurgency,” the commissioner added.

IDPs angry over reintegration, lament Boko Haram-caused trauma

However, a number of IDPs in various camps who spoke to Saturday PUNCH said they had yet to come to terms with the decision to reintegrate ‘repentant’ terrorists into society.

Questioning the sincerity of the Boko Haram fighters’ repentance, the IDPs said they were not ready to accept the decision of the government to reintegrate the ex-terrorists.

An IDP who lives at the Teachers’ Village Camp in Borno State, Modu Abubakar, said he and his seven children narrowly escaped death when the insurgents attacked their village, Gudumbali in Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State, about seven years ago.

He said he lost all his properties and source of livelihood as a result of the attack.He said, “I am a farmer and I have been living in this camp for seven years. The government resettled us to our homes at a point but the insurgents kept attacking, killing and kidnapping us. They destroyed our houses and burned down our food bans.

“As I speak, unless a miracle happens, I may not be able to go to the farm again because the place is still not safe. And the government is saying it wants to reintegrate these ‘devils’ into our villages? No way! We cannot accept them in our society.

“What if they had succeeded in killing all of us? Where would they have been reintegrated into? The government should rethink its decision. These Boko Haram insurgents are never repentant. They only come to surrender when the tide is against them.

“Why didn’t they surrender until the military began bombing them? Their repentance is fake and as such we will never let them live among us. If the government wants, it can build houses for them, but we will not let them live with us after causing us so much pain.”

Also, Mustapha Musa, a 53-year-old indigene of Kukawa town in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State, said he could not forget the pain Boko Haram had caused him.

Musa, who has been living in an IDP camp for the past five years after fleeing his village, said bluntly that he did not support the Borno State government’s idea.

He said, “I used to have a car which I used for my fishing business. One night, Boko Haram came, destroyed my business and rendered me homeless.Gwoza in Borno State, simply identified as Mama Hajara, said she was confident that it would be impossible to change the repentant terrorists’ ideologies.

Should the reintegration plan go ahead, she advised the army to profile the ex-terrorists and devise strategies to track them down in the event that they displayed certain characteristics contrary to their oath of repentance.

She said, “I don’t believe that those Boko Haram fighters looking for reintegration have genuinely repented. So I will advise the army and other security agencies in the theatre of the war to use their intelligence in dealing with these people.

“How does the government want a woman whose husband was killed by Boko Haram to feel when she sees a so-called repentant Boko Haram? How would a woman whose child or children were killed by the terrorists feel?”

Another IDP, who craved anonymity, said Boko Haram fighters beheaded his father and elder brother in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State in 2015.

He dismissed the notion that the insurgents had repented, saying he would not be fooled by Boko Haram’s strategy of trying to infiltrate into the society.He said, “I don’t agree with the idea. Boko Haram members, whether repentant or not, don’t deserve mercy.

“He who kills by the sword must die by the sword, so Boko Haram members who confess to killing people should be made to face the law.”