By Ndahi Marama, MAIDUGURI
A security multi-stakeholder town hall meeting hosted by Governor Babagana Zulum in Maiduguri on Sunday afternoon extensively 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 hasty release of hardened elements to the larger society”.
The stakeholders urged intensified military battle against ISWAP and for the federal government to quickly establish a world class centre with facilities for deradicalisation and rehabilitation of repentant insurgents to where they can be cautiously reintegrated after satisfactory rehabilitation.
The meeting, held at the multipurpose hall of Borno Government House, was attended by representative victims of Boko Haram attacks, national and state assemblies members, all traditional rulers led by Shehu of Borno, elders, heads of security agencies, Muslim and Christian leaders, the academia, Nigeria Union of Journalists, youth and women groups, the labour unions, civil society groups, local and international NGOs, political parties and top government officials led by Governor Zulum.
All groups made frank presentations during the meeting before 16 resolutions were reached.
The meeting came after Zulum had consultation with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief of Defence Staff last week and met community members in some parts of the state, seeking ways to address concerns over the surrender of Boko Haram fighters, given the havoc the insurgents wreaked and the need to find ways of ending the 12 years insurgency; and to prevent the insurgents from merging with ISWAP and prolong the crisis consequently.
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.
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,” describing the Boko Haram surrender as dealing with “two extreme conditions.
“Because 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 said.
Zulum also pointed to the case of Afghanistan were 20 years of military fight ended with Taliban now in control of government.
Shehu of Borno
In his submission, Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Elkanemi recounted that in many parts of the world, matters like that end up with negotiations. The Shehu urged residents to consider genuine reconciliation in order to allow peace to reign in the state.
The Shehu urged traditional leaders to preach forgiveness and tolerance in their respective domains as a way forward.
Representing the National Assembly, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume said: “Alhamdulillah, it is a welcome development that Boko Haram insurgents are surrendering. However, this development must be carefully examined. The unfortunate situation that bedevilled us for over 10 years is virtually coming to an end.”
Ndume, however, noted that efforts must be made to address grievances of victims. He nonetheless declared the support of National Assembly members towards reconciliation including, if need be, to move a motion or sponsor a bill during plenary.
The Chief Imam of Borno, Imam Zannah Laisu, assured of the commitment of religious leaders to the deradicalisation process.
On his part, Borno State CAN Chairman, represented by the secretary, Reverend Joseph Kwaha expressed the support by the Christian community towards the deradicalisation of repentant terrorists.
Babagana Malum, a victim of Boko Haram insurgency recalled that his father, mother and grandmother were gruesomely killed by Boko Haram insurgents in Bama, while his father’s wife alongside nine of his brothers have been missing. Despite these atrocities, he believed his forgiveness could save the lives of other families, hence his support for deradicalisation of the insurgents.
Vice Chancellors of University of Maiduguri and Borno State University announced plans by their institutions to critically study the situation and come up with robust academic research on how to go about with the repentant terrorists.
Representing Borno Elders Forum, Dr. Bulama Mali Gubio, while supporting the reintegration initiative, expressed reservation on the genuineness of the massive surrender by the terrorists in recent days.
Others who spoke at the meeting included the Theatre Commander of ‘Operation Hadin Kai’, Major General, Christopher Musa, representatives of the Nigeria Police Force, DSS, Nigerian Bar Association, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Nigeria Labour Congress, civil society organisations and women groups.
Rising from the meeting, the participants came up with 16 resolutions in a communiqué that was signed by the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaka Shehu Lawan, who, as a key member of the state’s security council, chaired the communique drafting committee.
Some of the resolutions are that governments handle the issues of repentant Boko Haram insurgents with utmost care and within the instrumentality of the law.
They stressed the need for proper profiling of repentant Boko Haram insurgents to avoid hasty release of hardened elements to larger society.
The meeting welcomed the recent massive surrender by the Boko Haram insurgents and urged those still in the bush to follow suit.
The meeting called for all firearms and offensive weapons used by the repentant insurgents to be retrieved from them.
They advocate the strengthening of the deradicalisation mechanism of Operation Safe Corridor so as to involve parents of the surrendered Boko Haram members, Ulamas, traditional/community leaders and the media.
The meeting resolved to have a periodic briefing on the activities of the surrendered Boko Haram terrorists with a view to creating awareness amongst the public.
Also, the North East Development Commission, NEDC, as a matter of priority, be involved in all aspects of the rehabilitation and integration of the repentant insurgents into mainstream society.