Ripples Over Bill to Rehabilitate Boko Haram Members

Ripples Over Bill to Rehabilitate Boko Haram Members

.. It Will Legalise Terror Cells, Participation in Mass Murders – HURIWA …Releasing Boko Haram Members Into the Society Counter-Productive – Bornu Elders …Empowerment of Arrested Terrorists Troubling, Suspicious – CAN …We Want Them to Have a Re-Think, Denounce Terrorism – FG Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has warned

.. It Will Legalise Terror Cells, Participation in Mass Murders – HURIWA

…Releasing Boko Haram Members Into the Society Counter-Productive – Bornu Elders

…Empowerment of Arrested Terrorists Troubling, Suspicious – CAN

…We Want Them to Have a Re-Think, Denounce Terrorism – FG

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has warned that the proposed bill to legislate the outright pardon of armed terrorists under the guise of deradicalisation programme could result in civil war either in the short, medium or long term. It also advise against any attempts at appeasement of terror groups and those indicted for mass murders.

The bill is sponsored by Mr Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe East Senatorial District and was read for the first time on the floor of the Senate on Thursday. It seeks the establishment of an agency that would ensure the Rehabilitation, Deradicalistion, and Reintegration of repentant terrorists in Nigeria.

But HURIWA warned that the bill is unconstitutional and offends all relevant anti-terrorism laws of the federation.

“Let us caution the section of the National legislators who are actively conniving with armed terrorists to introduce a satanic legislation that will overlook the mindboggling crimes of genocides committed by terrorists and the killings of over 30,000 innocent Nigerians in the last 10 years with the view to appease the terrorists even when the victims of terrorism are scattered in different Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Nigeria and are external refugees in so many nearby countries.

“If this bill to legalise the freeing of arrested terror suspects under any guise succeeds, then the nation should be prepared for the consequences of their unconstitutional action because the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of the terrorists attacks in the last decade will definitely not fold their hands whilst those who killed their loved ones are pardoned through roguish means by the passage of this criminally minded bill that is meant to legalise belonging to terror cells and participating in mass murders.

“This bill before the Senate is not only satanic and unconstitutional, but will paint the picture of a rogue nation because in all civilisations, those who declare war against innocent citizens and participate in genocide are rounded up and prosecuted and made to face the full weight of the law.

“History is replete with a plethora of trials of persons who have joined terror gangs and carried out mass killings. The plot by the National Assembly to therefore permit the wanton defecation of the constitution of Nigeria by forgiving mass murderers must never be allowed to succeed,” HURIWA affirms.

In the statement signed by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, the rights group said that government must engage in a law based on war by enforcing anti-terrorism laws. Section 1A (4) of the TPA (as amended) empowers “the law enforcement agencies” to “enforce all laws and regulations on counter-terrorism in Nigeria.”

HURIWA also stated that even before the Senate came up with this bad piece of proposed legislation to pardon terrorists, it is difficult to dismiss the general notion that the Nigerian State has not shown political will and commitment to the war on terror, adding: “It seems that not only have the real brains behind it are not being prosecuted but are also being shielded. An ideology based crime does not end with the incarceration of the foot soldiers.

“Unfortunately, usual extra judicial killing of high-profile suspects suggests a pattern of cover-up. Both Mohammed Yusuf and Alhaji Buji Foi, Boko Haram leader and the financier respectively, suffered the same fate while in police custody.

“Closely related is the manner of enforcement of the law on the subject; enforcement must be within the arm bit of general sense of legality. This implies that government should be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power as opposed to the uncertain and crooked cord of discretion.”

HURIWA argued further that “nations which have achieved stability and national security are those which have elevated law above political, religious, ethnic sentiments. The present Federal Government must be compelled to advocate national security on the basis of respect of not only individual rights but also the rule of law but definitely not the appeasement of terrorists.”

Last month, the Nigerian military said no fewer than 608 repentant Boko Haram insurgents were undergoing the De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) programme under its Operation Safe Corridor in Malam-Sidi, Gombe State.

Clients, the military euphemism for the repentant insurgents, were said to have been exposed to formal literacy classes, skills acquisition and Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) as well as drug and psycho-therapists during their training.

A group of Borno elders, led by ex-Governor, Mr Kashim Shettima, had last year, frowned at the initiative, saying the military’s operation was not well thought out.

They feared that releasing the purported repentant Boko Haram militants into civilian population could be counterproductive as hardened fighters would return to the terror group to commit more atrocities.

“The ongoing de-radicalization and reintegration of repentant Boko Haram insurgents under the “Operation Safe Corridor” of the defense headquarters is a course for concern for members of the Civilian JTF and some stakeholders in the State,” the group wrote in a letter last year.

“(We) suspect that “Boko Haram members do not repent” hence the de-radicalization programme may be breeding spies and agents of recruitment for the Boko Haram,” they had said.

They urged the president to approve the suspension of the programme. More Nigerians have also spoken out against the policy.

The Senate on Thursday began moves to establish an agency that would see to the rehabilitation, deradicalisation and integration of repentant insurgents in the country.

A bill, sponsored by Mr Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe East senatorial district, was read for the first time on the floor of the Senate.

The bill captioned ‘National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of repentant insurgents in Nigeria (Est, etc) Bill, 2020 (SB. 340)’ was read along with others sponsored by some senators in the chamber.

They include Federal Polytechnic Maiduguri (Est, etc) Bill, 2020 (SB. 338) by Senator Kashim Shettima, 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2020 (SB. 274) by Senator Solomon Adeola, and Metallurgy Training Institute Orumba (Est, etc) Bill, 2020 (SB. 338) by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.

The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has also described the de-radicalisation, empowerment and rehabilitation of Boko Haram suspects as troubling and suspicious. CAN President, Mr Samson Ayokunle, said this at briefing in Abuja to mark the second year of Leah Sharibu’s abduction, noting that it is shameful that despite Nigeria’s military forces, killings in the country have not let up.

His words: “The setting free of so-called ex-Boko Haram terrorists under de-radicalisation, rehabilitation, empowerment of the arrested terrorists by the federal government is rather troubling and suspicious,” he said.

“What is the guarantee that the freed ex-terrorists would not return to Sambisa forest and pick up their arms against innocent Nigerians?”

Represented by Caleb Ahima, CAN Vice President, Ayokunle said: “The development is a shame and there is a cloud of confusion that hangs over the nation and the people that are governing this nation are not doing the right thing.

“We are sure of one thing: we cannot doubt that the government knows what is happening. Looking at the fact that we are a nation, we have the Air Force, Navy and soldiers. We have the weapons, but what is happening in this nation?

“We call on the Federal Government again that we are getting to a point of anarchy. We have every reason to be suspicious and to speak passionately to the government again that Christians in this nation are Nigerians and must not be killed.

“We want the world to know the evil that is happening in the country under the watch of this government. More blood is being shed. The killing is religious. Boko Haram sect wants to establish an Islamic state. We must stop these killings.” He asked Buhari to fulfill his promise of securing the release of those held in Boko Haram captivity, adding that it is painful that the government has not deemed it fit to secure Sharibu’s freedom.

The Borno State Government has said about 1,400 repentant Boko Haram suspects have been released by the military and rehabilitated into society. The State Commissioner for Information, Mr Babakura Jato, said on Monday that 1,400 had been released in three tranches since the ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ programme began.

Although the programme began in 2016, it wasn’t until 2018 that the release of the suspects began. Jato said most of the persons released were not actually Boko Haram members but were relatives of terrorists or persons found in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The commissioner said, “There have been a series of releases. They were released in three tranches. The first set was released during Governor Shettima’s time while two sets have been released under Prof. Zulum. “The total number of persons released is 1,400. Out of the 1,400, the majority of them are cleared, suspects. These were people who were suspected of being members of Boko Haram and it was discovered that they were not.

“The rest are children of Boko Haram or actual Boko Haram members. I cannot give you a breakdown of the figure now for security reasons.” The government’s spokesman said he was aware of allegations that some of those released had gone back to terrorism but argued that most of these allegations were mere speculations.

Jato said after the training, they were handed over to the Borno State Government for proper integration into their communities. He stated that if any person was rejected by his community for being a former Boko Haram member, the government would resettle that person.

When asked if there were recorded cases of someone going back to join the terrorist group, he said, “I have not heard of that but we have had cases whereby people in the community rejected them. So, they return to the rehab centres and we change their location.”

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs Sadiya Umar-Farouq, explained that President Muhammadu Buhari granted amnesty to repentant Boko Haram make them have a re-think and denounce terrorism so that they could be assisted in different areas of human development.

Umar-Farouq stated this when she received in audience the representatives of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishaki, led by the Coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor, Maj.-Gen Bamidele Shaffa, in Abuja.

In a statement signed by the Assistant Director, Information, Ms Rhoda Ishaku Iliya, Minister Umar-Farouq said: “In ensuring that the Buhari-led government achieve its vision in addressing the insecurity and insurgency challenges facing this nation, the Federal Government have given a welcoming hand or an opportunity to repentant Boko Haram members to have a re-think and denounce terrorism so that they could be assisted in different areas of human development.

“It is a very important programme for the ministry, one of the mandates of the ministry is to focus on the early recovery aspect of the North-East region and one of such components of early recovery is re-integration, rehabilitation of these affected communities and the repentant Boko Haram insurgents.”

She commended the efforts and initiatives of Operation Safe Corridor, noting that it would address the challenges of insecurity and “to a very large extent approached in the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of these insurgents adding that this strategy is very important especially in the North-East today.”

Shaffa said the meeting was to brief the Minister on the activities of Operation Safe Corridor which is believed to have fallen on the scope of humanitarian functions of the ministry.

According to him, OPSC, since its establishment in 2016, has graduated 280 repentant members of the insurgency including two Chadians and had been transferred to their states and country for re-integration back to the society.

“I wish to state that the group are doing well in their various communities with no report of hostility against them or any case of misdemeanour against anyone of them in the communities where they have been integrated.”

He encouraged family visitation to the camp to reunite the repentant members with their families, provide room for reconciliation and sense of belonging. He also urged prominent personalities to visit the camp to interact with the boys and reassure them of acceptance.

Shaffa disclosed that there were no plans to recruit the boys into the Nigerian Army as being speculated by fake news advocates.

“No member of the repentant insurgents is qualified to be recruited in the Army,” he added.

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