Several residents in the northern parts of the country have asked the Federal Government and the Army to stop reintegrating some repentant terrorists back into their communities.
In Gombe State alone, as of September 2023, no fewer than 2,168 ex-Boko Haram members were said to have passed through the De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration camp at the Kwami Local Government Area of Gombe State in the last eight years.
In January 2023, no fewer than 613 rehabilitated terrorists undergoing de-radicalisation were scheduled to be handed over by the military authorities to their respective state governors.
This has, however, heightened fears that the repentant terrorists may have ulterior motives.
Some repentant Boko Haram members in July 2022, despite renouncing their membership of the terror group, were accused of having contact with their former colleagues.
Some repentant terrorists were also accused of acting as spies for terrorist groups in the past.
The ex-terrorists were among the 800 persons who were recently reintegrated into the Bama community in Borno State and were resettled at the Government Girls Secondary School Bama.
Plateau IDPs warn
Expressing dissatisfaction over the development, displaced persons in Plateau State urged President Bola Tinubu not to allow repentant terrorists to rejoin society.
A cross-section of them who spoke with Saturday PUNCH in Jos on Friday said releasing them into the communities would deal a big blow to the fight against insecurity.
They also noted that such action taken by former President Muhammadu Buhari contributed to the failure of the fight against terrorism, adding that the action had ignited a war without end.
One of the IDPs, Blessing Chan, said, “Reintegrating repentant Boko Haram members back into society will not achieve any positive result.
“President Tinubu should stop it. His predecessor did that, and what did he achieve? Nothing but more attacks on the region.”
Similarly, residents of Sokoto State also condemned the reintegration of rehabilitated terrorists into the communities, saying the move might cause a setback to the ongoing fight against terrorism in the state.
A resident of the state, Mallam Abdulrasheed Salawu, while speaking with one of our correspondents, said it was another way to dampen the spirit of security agents, especially troops of the Nigerian Army.
He appealed to the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, jettison the plan in the interest of the state.
Also speaking, a private security officer, Bello Ahmad, said the act might become counterproductive in the fight against insecurity in the state.
Residents of Benue State described the move by the Federal Government to reintegrate into society the ‘repentant terrorists’ who were reported to have been rehabilitated by the Army.
The President-General of a non-governmental organisation, Mzough Tiv Worldwide, who doubles as the chairman of three socio-cultural groups in the state, Iorbee Ihagh, a retired Comptroller of Prisons, expressed fear that any plan to release them was an invitation for severe attacks.
According to Ihagh, the Federal Government should send any terrorist who is not a Nigerian back to his country and try the indigenous ones for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Also speaking, a secondary school teacher in the state who simply identified himself as Terna, expressed shock about the plan, warning that ‘a leopard never changes its spots’.
She asked that the terrorists be tried and made to face the consequences for their crimes.
‘Govt forcing us’
Meanwhile, some residents of Borno State, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH, expressed displeasure over the plan to bring these repentant terrorists back home.
A resident, Ahmed Modu, said most of the repentant terrorists were pushed back into society gradually.
He said, “The fact, which is the whole truth told by everyone offended by Boko Haram terrorists, is that we will accept them as a necessary evil, as we have been doing for the past two years.
“They are only forced on us by government, and we are, therefore, coexisting with mutual distrust and intense suspicion, especially on the part of those offended by the terrorists.”
Modu, whose two uncles and three other siblings were killed by Boko Haram in 2015, queried, “How can someone whose whole parents’ family were all butchered by a terrorist forgive and forget that terrorist who he now sees living a peaceful life in the community?”
He added, “Even if you don’t attempt vengeance on him, you will still be intensely pained seeing him as your neighbour, and even living fine with government assistance to enable him to settle well at home.
Another resident, Babagana Kyari, who hails from Dikwa LGA in the state, whose wife and parents were also killed by Boko Haram, shared the same views with Modu.
“It is impossible for me to recover from the shock and trauma of losing my parents and wife to the knives of the terrorists. So long as I cannot recover, I cannot forget, even if I undergo intense pain to forgive, as a true Muslim.
“So even if they are released to add to the population of those already released by the state government, we will only continue to leave a cat-and-mouse relationship with them, in a situation of mutual distrust and suspicion,” he said.
Kaduna residents divided
The Commander, Patrol and Guard of the Nigerian Hunters and Forest Security Service in charge of North-West, North-East and North-Central, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed, gave his support to the move by the military to reintegrate repentant Boko Haram into the society.
He, however, said those to be reintegrated into society must be under strict military watch “without them knowing that they are under surveillance”.
“All their activities among residents should be monitored. They will think they are free but the federal government must watch them but they won’t know they are being watched.”
On his part, the Convener of the Joint-Action Northern Youth Associations, Murtala Abubakar, also cautioned the authority over the reintegration of the repentant terrorists back into their communities.
Abubakar while speaking to one of our correspondents in Kaduna, there was a need to understand the circumstances that led some of the members into taking arms against the state.
According to him, those who find themselves by omission and those who voluntarily join the terror group must not be treated the same.
However, speaking with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, another resident of Sabon-Tasha, in the troubled Chikun Local Government Area of the state, Osondu Akpati, said reintegrating the so-called repentant terrorists into the society would breed animosity among the residents.
“What happened to so many innocent victims that were untimely killed because of their activities? Will the victims’ relatives be comfortable living with somebody who killed his relations? It will be difficult to imagine.”
Similarly, Aliyu Garba, another resident of Kawo, Kaduna North Local Government Area of the state, cautioned against reintegrating repentant terrorists into the state after the havoc wreaked on society.
According to him, terrorists are fighting an ideological war which makes it difficult to readmit them.
‘Not good idea’
Residents of Nasarawa State expressed fear following the decision of the Nigerian Army to reintegrate some repentant terrorists back into the society by February.
Speaking on the matter on Friday, a resident of Lafia Local Government Area, Hannatu Musa, doubted the possibility of having a terrorist who had engaged in nefarious activities, totally changing his attitude for the better.
Another resident who spoke on the matter, Yunusa Ibrahim, while lamenting the current state of insecurity in the state, called on the federal government to reconsider its decision to reintegrate the repentant terrorists into society.
CDS denies involvement
The Chief of Defence Staff, Christopher Musa, who was represented by Major General Mohammed Ahmed, cleared misconceptions about how rehabilitated Boko Haram terrorists had caused harm to their communities after they were reintegrated.
Speaking during the passing out of 22 ex-terrorists recently at the De-radicalisation centre in Kwami Local Government Area of Gombe, he said, “The armed forces under my watch will not allow such unfounded imagination to happen. It is pertinent that I have the privilege to have served as overall commander of the military in the North-East codenamed Hadinkai for 19 months,” he added.