DEFENCE operatives and Borno State officials have held a mini-summit in Maiduguri during they which they discussed the modalities that will govern the ongoing surrender of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province (Iswap) militants.
Over recent weeks, hundreds of militants have been laying down their arms and surrendering to the Nigerian authorities. They are being integrated into society immediately, with some of them even allowed to join the armed forces, with local people have expressed concern about, saying it will not be so easy to forgive and forget.
Leading the calls for caution when it comes to integrating these militants, the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, said that elsewhere in the world, such matters were carefully negotiated. He pointed out that it would be hard for local people who had lost loved ones to just forget and embrace these ex-terrorists.
To address the matter, a security multi-stakeholder town hall meeting was hosted by Governor Babagana Zulum in Maiduguri on Sunday. It discussed the pros, cons and implications of ongoing surrender by Boko Haram fighters, after which the meeting came up with 16 resolutions.
Part of the resolutions included a demand that firearms are retrieved from all repentant insurgents, while profiling is made stringent in order to avoid the hasty release of hardened elements to the larger society. In addition, the stakeholders also called for intensified military activity against Iswap, who appear to be on the ascendancy at the moment.
They also called for the federal government to quickly establish a world class centre with facilities for the de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of repentant insurgents. According to delegates, such a facility should be a place where they can be cautiously reintegrated after satisfactory rehabilitation.
It was attended by representative victims of Boko Haram attacks, national and state assemblies members, all traditional rulers, heads of security agencies, Muslim and Christian leaders, the academia, Nigeria Union of Journalists, youth and women groups, labour unions, civil society groups, non-governmental organisations, political parties and top government officials. At the opening of the meeting, Governor Zulum called on all participants to be very open and analytical in their submissions looking at potential advantages, problems and implications of having repentant insurgents back.
Governor Zulum said: “While it was certainly difficult accepting the killers of our loved ones, it is equally important to find ways of ending the 12 years insurgency. Because on one hand accepting insurgents has its implications, while rejecting them could swell the ranks of rival Iswap faction that is still armed and waging war.”
He also pointed to the case of Afghanistan where 20 years of military fight ended with the Taliban now in control of government. In his submission, the Shehu of Borno urged residents to consider genuine reconciliation in order to allow peace to reign in the state, pleading with traditional leaders to preach forgiveness and tolerance in their respective domains as a way forward.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, added: “Alhamdulillah, it is a welcome development that Boko Haram insurgents are surrendering. However, this development must be carefully examined although the unfortunate situation that bedevilled us for over 10 years is virtually coming to an end.”
He, however, noted that efforts must be made to address grievances of victims. Senator Ndume nonetheless declared the support of National Assembly members towards reconciliation including, if need be, to move a motion or sponsor a bill during plenary.