Prominent Nigerians and youth groups have expressed mixed feelings over the plan by the Senate to pass a bill seeking the establishment of a special commission for the rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram insurgents.
The bill, which passed its first reading in the Senate on Thursday, was sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Geidam (APC, Yobe East).
In the bill titled: “National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria Bill,” Geidam, a former governor of Yobe State, asked the Senate to endorse the agency to, among others, provide, recreational facilities and fine arts programmes for the repentant insurgents. He argued that the commission would maintain open lines of communication to gain a greater understanding of both the immediate needs for combating Boko Hararn as well as a tool for counter-radicalisation in the future.”
He added that when established, the commission would “provide avenue for rehabilitating, de-radicalising, educating and reintegrating the defectors, repentant and detained members of the insurgent group Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society. Senator added that the commission would further “provide avenue for reconciliation and promote national security. Provide an-open-door and encouragement for other members of the group who are still engaged in the insurgency to abandon the group especially in the face of the military pressure and gives the government an opportunity to derive insider-information about the insurgence group for greater understanding of the group and its inner workings.”
Among those, who rejected the proposed commission yesterday were Senator Ali Ndume from Borno State, the Coalition Of Northern Groups (CNG) and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) while the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) endorsed it.
Ndume, who represents Borno South in the Upper House and the chairman, Senate Committee on Army, said that the bill was indirectly asking more Nigerians to team up with the terrorist group.
He argued that the bill would swell the ranks of Boko Haram because they are sure of rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Ndume said: “I personally disagree with that. The war is not over and some criminals that have been killing people you say that you are doing ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ for them.
“I am completely against that idea. They know my position on that, you can’t do that.
“It is when you win the war and some people surrender that you think about something like that,” Ndume stated.
Ex-Govs Of Frontline States Have Questions To Answer – Northern Youths
In its reaction, the Coalition Of Northern Groups (CNG) said that former governors from the North East, especially the frontline states of Boko Haram have questions to answer.
CNG, which rejected the proposed commission, said that Nigerian leaders from 2010 to date particularly some northern leaders, especially former governors from the frontlline Boko Haram states, have questions to answer with regards to the persistent crisis in the region.
The spokesman of the group, Suleiman Abdul-Azeez, told LEADRSHIP Weekend yesterday that “there is absolutely no justification for any leader, least of all from the Northeast who has the welfare of his people at heart, to come up with such a clumsy proposal.
“This is only heightening the suspicion that some people have some interest in the activities of the insurgents. This and the recent position of some leaders that bandits ought to be given decent labels and must not be addressed as bastards (shege) further call to question the motive of some leaders with regards to the deteriorating security situation in the North in particular.
“We find it sad that a leader in Nigeria from the troubled zone will even contemplate proposing such a window for members of such a deadly movement. It is even more disturbing that the Senate of the Federal Republic entertained such a bill to the point of even allowing it through the second reading.
“It is all the more unfortunate that even as Northern Nigeria reels under severe insecurity, and a whole host of crucial policy decisions – from inflation, poverty, and illiteracy – cry out for parliamentary attention, the energies of our lawmakers should be so completely consumed by such trivia, and arcane technicalities.
“It also confirms the growing concern that most of the present set of leaders from the troubled North can’t articulate the aspirations of their constituents as they don’t know what those are, in the first place.
“It also indicates an unwarranted disconnect between politics and policy-making with our parliament turning into a space for lawmakers to flex their muscles and not where they are supposed to hold governments accountable to the electorate.
“We, therefore, stand solidly behind the senator from Borno, Ali Ndume, in his opposition to the bill,” the group said.
Also, PANDEF said that setting up a commission for repentant Boko Haram members would amount to compensating the terrorists.
The group, which rejected the proposal, insisted that the people from the South-South zone won’t support such an agency.
PANDEF chairman, Air Vice Marshal Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), told LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt that establishing a rehabilitation commission for Boko Haram fighters would amount to compensating the insurgents for killing Nigerians.
Nkanga said: “It is only the military that can talk of setting up a rehabilitation commission for the Boko Haram members because that could be part of their plans to end insurgency in the country.
“But such a proposal coming from the Senate means that our government wants to compensate Boko Haram fighters for killing Nigerians.
“The call for the establishment of a commission to rehabilitate Boko Haram members is not in the interest of Nigerians who have been victims of these insurgents. “In fact, it is uncalled for and we totally reject such moves,” he said.
But ACF secretary-general, Anthony Sani, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that there was nothing wrong in the rehabilitation of people that have denounced their previous deeds and now want to be reintegrated into the society.
He said: “People are usually recruited into insurgence through radicalisation which becomes ideology for them. And de-radicalisation is a process of exorcising such ideology out of insurgents.
“All over the world, de-radicalisation is an accepted process of integrating and rehabilitating those insurgents who repent and surrender their arms.
“I, therefore, do not see anything wrong in having institutions vested with responsibility of ensuring effective rehabilitation and integration of repentant insurgents through the process of rehabilitation,” Sani stated.
We’ve Done Well In Boko Haram War – PMB
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his administration has done well in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Buhari added that the sacrifices of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in conflict areas in Nigeria were well appreciated, noting that the group had shaped the fight against the insurgents.
Receiving Dr Christos Christou, the international president of the organisation at State House, Abuja, yesterday, Buhari in a statement issued by his special adviser media, Femi Adesina, said that the sacrifices as individuals and as a group were quite enormous, particularly on non-profit basis.
Commenting specifically on the situation in the Northeast, President Buhari said that despite the criticisms, the government has made substantial progress.
He said: “We know the pathetic situation of children not knowing where their parents are, or the communities they come from, and that was why we established the new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. This is to harness and channel resources to such deprived people.”
The president promised that respite and succour would soon come to all the troubled areas, adding that many prominent and well-to-do organisations were also involved along with international agencies in realizing the dream.
Buhari told his guests that “we are grateful to you. We will secure the environment in order for you to do your job. You are not doing it for profit. We remain very appreciative.”
Dr. Christou said Doctors Without Borders had been active in Nigeria since 1996, and is an international, independent medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflicts, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare.
The organisation works in 10 states across the country, and adheres strictly to principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality, among others. Its budget for year 2020 is N17.7 billion, with 90 per cent of its 3,000 staff members being Nigerians.
ISWAP, Boko Haram Days Are Numbered – Buratai
Relatedly, the chief of army staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has showered encomiums on troops fighting insurgency, stating that the days of Boko Haram and its affiliate Islamic State West Africa ISWAP, were numbered.
He noted that with the robust posture of the troops against insurgents, the end was in sight.
Buratai stated this in a congratulatory letter to the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi and the various commanders of the task force.
In a statement issued by director, Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, the COAS applauded the troops’ gallantry and patriotism that led to the decimation of the leadership and ranks of the Boko Haram terrorists and their affiliate ISWAP in various parts of the theatre.
He said: “I am more confident now than ever before with your current robust posture that you will end the BHT/ISWAP menace in no distance time.”
He, therefore, urged them to continue to dominate the theatre and maintain high standard of professionalism.
Buratai also implored the troops never to allow the terrorists freedom of action anywhere as they continue to discharge their legitimate duties.
The COAS also thanked them for the renewed efforts that brought more confidence and hope in the troops by Nigerians.
He added “with the renewed zeal, it is just matter of days to end the menace of Boko Haram terrorists and contain their criminality.”
Buratai finally assured the troops of his continued support and that of President Buhari who is proud of their accomplishments and will continue to provide the needed support for the troops to do more.
Let’s Intensify Prayers, Says Gowon
Meanwhile, former head of state and convener of Nigeria Prays initiative, Gen. Yakubu Gawon, has advocated the need for sustained prayers for improved security across the country.
He stated this when he led members of the Nigeria Pray on a courtesy visit to Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed at the Government House, Bauchi
Gowon was in the state ahead of the zonal national annual prayer to be hosted in the state.
He said that the initiative was part of the group’s efforts towards promoting peace and security, especially in Northeastern region.
The former head of state who commended Governor Mohammed for ensuring that the state remained the most peaceful in the region, encouraged him to maintain the spirit.
While emphasising that the security of life and property is a collective responsibility, Gowon called on traditional and religious leaders across the country to remain resolute in guiding their subjects on the need for tolerance.
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