Legal Nigeria

Reintegrating terrorists into society dangerous, ex-soldiers tell FG


Some retired soldiers have again warned the Federal Government to be careful with its decision to rehabilitate and reintegrate some repentant terrorists who have gone through the government’s deradicalisation programme, Operations Safe Corridor.

The OSC which began under former president Muhammadu Buhari has run for several years and seen no fewer than 4,000 ex-Boko Haram members go through the programme.

In Gombe State alone, for instance, in September 2023, no fewer than 2,168 ex-Boko Haram members were said to have passed through the De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration camp at the Kwami Local Government Area of Gombe State in the last eight years.

In January 2023, no fewer than 613 rehabilitated terrorists undergoing de-radicalisation were scheduled to be handed over by the military authorities to their respective state governors.

However, in July 2022, some repentant Boko Haram members, despite renouncing their membership of the terror group, were accused of having contact with their former colleagues, supplying them intelligence.

The former terrorists were said to be among the 800 persons who were recently reintegrated into the Bama community in Borno State and were resettled at the Government Girls’ Secondary School Bama.

Some of them were also accused of acting as spies for terrorist groups in the past.

Reacting on the matter, a retired colonel, Hassan Stan-Labo, stated, “If we have mobilised and brought them (terrorists) out for rehabilitation, it is already too late; there is nothing we can do but to go the whole hog; go through the entire demobilisation, de-radicalisation and rehabilitation.

“However, if I were the commander-in-chief, my instructions would have been: ‘Don’t bring anybody for any damn rehabilitation; you bloody well will pay the price for whatever you have done on the battle front’.

“You want a battle, come get the battle. You have committed all kinds of atrocities and now, you turn around begging for forgiveness. We don’t have a responsibility to forgive you; we hasten your journey to heaven. Go and meet God and ask for penance. What do we tell the people in the displaced persons camps, who are not even getting the kind of treatment we are giving these guys?”

He also asked that proper biometrics should be taken of these guys so they would not find their way into the military.

“We can have the biometrics of these guys and since fingerprints are used in the course of recruitment, we should be able to fish out those who may want to join the military. If we have a very effective intelligence network on the ground, this wouldn’t happen. I’m also aware that the Borno State Government is documenting their biometrics data. That’s a very good starting point,” he added.

Another retired military officer, who served in the Nigerian Navy but refused to be named, said it was wrong to assume that terrorists would repent because the government made them go through a programme.

“We are talking of hard criminals who kill innocent people for a living and leave families deserted. They destroy people’s livelihoods and feel nothing. Why will a few months or years programme deradicalise them? What was the government thinking when it said it wants to reintegrate them back into the society to live with the same people whom they rendered homeless? The government needs to have a clear rethink. No terrorist should be treated with kid’s gloves,” the soldier added.

Also speaking, a former director of the Department of State Services, Mr Mike Ejiofor, said the rehabilitation programme seemed not well-thought-out and ill-timed.

He said, “The government has been releasing some of them under the notion that they have been de-radicalised. These same people will go back into the society and start wreaking havoc. I think the government should reconsider its stance on the release of de-radicalised insurgents to avoid reintroducing criminals into the society.

“You can’t continue to release them in the heat of the problems when none of the people that have been arrested has been successfully prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others. Since they are not prosecuted, they are not afraid of going back to their old way.”

Source : The Punch