•Say it’s cruel, insensitive reintegrating our killers, abandoning us
•Giving terrorists money, vocational training, gross injustice to us
•Govt should rethink, Buhari should rehabilitate us
•Some of rehabilitated terrorists have rejoined Boko Haram
•How can they change when you pamper them, give them money?
•Saturday Vanguard visits IDP camps in Maiduguri, Kaduna, Abuja
By Joseph Erunke, Abuja; Ndahi Marama, Maiduguri & Ibrahim HassanWuyo, Kaduna
VICTIMS of Boko Haram attacks in the Northeast now in various Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs’ camps in the north have expressed outrage and blasted the Federal Government for rehabilitating and reintegrating members of the terror group while they (victims) were left to rot away in the camps. Describing government action as cruel and the height of insensitivity, the traumatized victims said the government has not been fair to them, many of whom were killed, inflicted with life threatening injuries and their property destroyed. They said it was unacceptable to them for government to bring the same killers back into the community to co-exist with the same people whose lives they destroyed.
The military had in 2016 launched Operation Safe Corridor, an initiative for the deradicalisation and rehabilitation of ex-Boko Haram members with the objective of reintegrating repentant Boko Haram members into the society.
Last week, 601 Boko Haram members who have been deradicalized were released by the army to the Borno State Government to be rejoined with their families and relations, a situation that generated a lot of tensions among the public, victims, and host communities.
Some of the IDPs,who spoke to Vanguard at their camp located at Kuchingoro, Abuja, also faulted the government for its N20,000 monthly stipend to some rehabilitated members of the terrorist group, expressing fears that government’s action may rather strengthen the terrorists’ activities in the region.
According to a 44-year-old man who identified himself as Ahmadu Giro at the camp, “how do you explain the fact that the government that doesn’t even know how we live here, how we are surviving here and how we feed in this camp is busy spending money to rehabilitate people who without any provocation, took up arms and killed many innocent and law abiding citizens of the country and also destroyed their sources of livelihood? Does it make any sense?”
The father of three boys and a girl said they have resigned to fate as the government which they were counting on for rehabilitation following the losses they incurred in the hands of the terrorists have abandoned them.
He said:”The last time we saw government’s presence here was five months ago when officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA,came here with a bucket of liquid soap and hand sanitizer to educate us on the need to adhere to coronavirus safety measures.”
Another IDP, who gave his name as Nuhu Bala, told Saturday Vanguard that he narrowly escaped the insurgents’ attack in 2016 in Bama, Borno State, adding however that his mother and father were not lucky to escape.
“It was a miracle that I managed to escape the Boko Haram’s attack in Bama, Borno State in 2016. I lost my parents during the attacks. How I escaped and managed to be here at this camp is still a surprise to me. Apart from my parents, we lost everything to that fateful attack. Ever since, life has not been the same. So, for government to not only to rehabilitate these attackers but also place them on monthly N20,000 stipend is a gross injustice to the victims,” he said.
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He added:”To be able to feed in this camp, I wake up every morning to work for people in their farms. I spend most of my time thinking everyday whether I would one day return to our ancestral home again and I think government should be focused on this and not the attackers. Leaving us to our fate here at this camp and be spending money to make the lives of our attackers comfortable amounts to injustice,” the 32 year-old fumed.
Another Boko Haram victim at the camp, Mohammed Lere, from Adamawa state, said they were tired of being at the camp as life was hard for them. On how he felt over the rehabilitation of some Boko Haram members and the monthly N20,000 being given to those considered repentant, he said government’s action was an approval that it was better not to be a law abiding citizen than being one.
“You are asking as if you don’t know what government’s action indicates. How do you explain a situation where someone that followed me to my home to attack me for no just reason is pampered with juicy offers leaving the person he attacked to suffer? That is the situation we have found ourselves today. And with this, how do you expect peace to reign?”,he fumed.
Also, a 38 year-man, Iliyasu Ali,who said he hailed from Munguno town in Borno State, appealed to President Muhammad Buhari to empower them either financially to start their businesses or make their homes suitable to enable them return to start life there.
“Before I found myself in this situation, I had a business outlet where I was doing well selling second-hand clothes. Besides, I had two cars that were being used for commercial purpose. I lost all these to Boko Haram activities in one fell swoop. We will be appreciative if the government can only send away Boko Haram members from our communities and empower us with vocational training and money to start life,” he said.
Speaking also,39-year old Maimuna Adamu said she lost her husband and two grown up children besides their house which she noted, was not spared in the insurgents’ attack that saw her in her present state. She added that her 21-year-old daughter who had visited from her husband’s house on the fateful day of the attack was abducted and wondered if she was alive or had been killed by the terrorists.
Adamu,who said she didn’t know how she escaped the attack that claimed the lives of her husband and two children, begged government to restore peace in her community so that they could return home.
She argued that government was not fair to the victims of the Boko Haram attacks. “How do you expect these people to think or change when you are pampering them and giving them money? You are rather telling them that they were right in what they were doing. How do you even feel rehabilitating and giving out money to someone who, without any provocation, killed people and at the same time the victims and their families that should have been considered for the rehabilitation are forgotten? I think they should rethink and do what is right,” she said.
At the IDPs’ camps in Kaduna, a widow who lamented what she went through in the hands of the insurgents expressed disgust that the government could decide to make life comfortable for the aggressors and abandon the victims to their fate.
She said, “this thing is hurting. They killed my husband in my presence, they killed my son, I’m left suffering with four young children. Till death, I will never forget that day. I was left with children, with no help or assistance. See how harsh life is today, someday we eat, another day we stay hungry, that is how we have been suffering with the children.
“Look at the kind of care being given to the Boko Haram members and those of us who have suffered for six years now were not taken care of. Truly, the government has not done justice here. I do menial jobs to get N500 to take care of the remaining children who are now out of school” she said.
Similarly, a male victim said Boko Haram insurgents killed his relations and sacked his community.
“They killed four of my relations. In what capacity are we going to stay with them again? Do we see them as human beings or animals? Or do they want us to meet them and take revenge?There will be a serious problem. They should go to Gwoza and Bama. Many of the repentant insurgents have rejoined the insurgency, there is nothing you can do to change a Boko Haram member,” he said.
Spokesman for the Coalition of Northern Groups,CNG, Abdulaziz Suleiman, in his submission in Kaduna lamented that while the IDP camps lacked basic amenities and other infrastructure, government was rehabilitating Boko Haram members and re integrating them into the communities where they had earlier unleashed violence.
According to Suleiman, “for government to even think of a phantom rehabilitation of so-called repented Boko Haram members at this point, is in itself the peak of misplacement of priority. It’s the height of insensitivity by the government. And for this to come at a time when almost the entire north has been turned virtually into a battle ground with camps for displaced persons spread around the region, it is a confirmation that what we have are leaders who think power is an end in itself; who mobilize our people only during elections, sowing seeds of division and leaving everyone poorer and more insecure.
“This joke about rehabilitation of Boko Haram repentant fighters is a veiled admission of failure of government to wake up to the magnitude of the humanitarian disaster that the Boko Haram’s activities alone have created. From every reasonable point of view, it is folly to contemplate the rehabilitation of the Boko Haram fighters said to have repented without achieving full cessation of hostilities, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in the entire region”.
Such action, according to him “is a confirmation of the lack of leadership capacity required for the simultaneous challenges of continuing the fight against Boko Haram, rehabilitating IDPs and rebuilding lives, communities and infrastructure.
“This also justifies our concerns that the quality of coordination of efforts, management of skills and resources and the capacities and integrity of government agencies are insufficient for addressing the sense of urgency in dealing with an escalating humanitarian disaster.
“With about millions of our fellow citizens internally displaced and hundreds of thousands of orphans, and hunger and malnourishment becoming alarming features in most parts of the north, it is ridiculous that the sense of emergency needed for dealing with the scale and nature of the humanitarian disaster is diverted to rehabilitating those that caused it.
“If the north today needs to hear the truth, it should be told that it is cursed with a set of leaders who have lost the energy and some of the sincerity and will power to take up such challenging issues as the resettlement of persons displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency, communal conflicts, cattle rustling, banditry and kidnapping.
“The President, federal legislators and governors keep telling us that they are concerned over these issues, but every northerner must realize by now that the leaders and governments we elected cannot or will not do enough to bring the atrocities to an end.
“Therefore, when we say that northerners bear the brunt of bad or poor governance more than other Nigerians, we speak from a solid experience of living under leaders who are inept in bringing relief and comfort to northern communities suffering under the current desperate circumstances,” he said.
Senator Ali Ndume representing Borno South who also spoke on the issue said rehabilitation and integration of repentant Boko Haram insurgents would be an exercise in futility as a repentant Boko Haram member who was recently integrated with his community, had killed his father, stole his wealth and disappeared. Ndume alleged that many of the repentant Boko Haram members had since gone back to the group adding that “they would never repent”. He contended that if there was sincerity of purpose on the part of the government, the displaced persons at the IDPs camps should be trained in various trades and vocations to enable them start life again.
At the various IDPs camps in Borno state located in Dalori, Bakassi, Customs House, NYSC, Teachers Village, Gubio Road, Stadium, Christian Association of Nigeria ,CAN, Centre, Mohammed Goni College of Legal and Islamic Studies (MOGOCLIS) and Farm Centre, the displaced persons argued that they should be the ones to be rehabilitated by the government and not the terrorists saying that those who killed by the sword should be given the same treatment. According to them, a killer, rapist and abductor will never be welcomed in any community describing the reintegration initiative as terrible and baseless.
Community rejects reintegration of repentant terrorist
It was gathered that one of the de-radicalised Boko Haram members, who was released recently went back to his community with some papers believed to be government clearance paper but members of the community rejected his being reintegrated into the society while condemning the authorities who released him back to the community. This followed a video released by Boko Haram that went viral of the gruesome murder of some humanitarian aid workers as one of those killed was from the same area where the repentant terrorist was being sent to be reintegrated.
In his reaction, one of the displaced persons, Abba Ali who is taking refuge at Bakkasi Camp in Maiduguri, with two wives and four children strongly condemned the rehabilitation of Boko Haram members insisting that government must rescind the decision.
He queried, “how would Boko Haram members who have killed and destroyed would be given pardon in the name of repentance, while their victims are wallowing in abject poverty and trauma with the government not showing any concern to their plight the camps?”
He said, “imagine you had your children murdered, your wife raped and killed. The culprits are arrested and the government tells you they are now repentant. And while you are still at an IDP camp, with your family disorganised, and you are struggling to get food to eat, the government brings the culprits, feeds and clothes them, gives them education and money to start a business and sends them to come and be your neighbors.
“I am very much disappointed to see that our killers were given preferential treatment. I learnt that many of them who pretended to surrender were not only given money and certificates after their graduation from a radicalization centre in Gombe, but they were also allowed to be reintegrated into the society to mingle with their victims. It is very shocking to me in particular”, Ali said.
Another displaced resident, Mallam Abor Mohammed who lost two of his children and some close relatives during Boko Haram attacks in Bama Local Government Area, and currently taking refuge at Dalori II IDPs camp, expressed dismay with government’s move, saying it was only in Nigeria that such a thing could happen.
Mohammed said, “when I heard that our enemies are now treated as first class citizens after surrendering to the military, I asked, did the government know the implication of allowing the same people who terrorized us to be reintegrated into the society? But all I can say is that I am optimistic that Allah would do justice at the end”.
Also reacting, an IDP from Damaturu, the Yobe state capital who simply gave his name as Usman Yakubu said, himself, his wife and three of his children were displaced in the last eight years when a group of insurgents ambushed their community in Buni Gari.
Yakubu in an emotion laden voice said, “I was surprised to see that even during this trying moment of COVID-19 pandemic where schools remained closed, with no admission, promotion or graduation, Boko Haram sect members who pretended to have repented were not only freed to be reintegrated into the same society they unleashed terror upon, but equally given vocational training and were issued certificates”.