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Nigerian Army releases 983 Boko Haram suspects, says more to come

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AFTER absolving them of wrongdoing, the Nigerian Army has released 983 once suspected members of Boko Haram in what is one of the biggest of such exercises. It also assured Nigerians that it will soon release other batches of detainees once they are cleared.

The released persons were, on Wednesday, handed over to the Borno State government for rehabilitation and reintegration into the society at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the state capital.

Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, seized the occasion to urge the leaders of Boko Haram, Abu Musab al-Barnawi and Abubakar Shekau, to surrender their arms and return to the society because “their mission to establish a caliphate in Nigeria is impossible”.

“These 983 cleared Boko Haram suspects are being cleared of any wrongdoing, so we are handing them over to the Borno State Government for rehabilitation and reintegration,” he said.

“We are going to clear the remaining batch as soon as they are cleared by security operatives.”

The state governor, Babagana Zulum, in his reaction appreciated the military for their efforts and encouraged the former detainees to be good ambassadors of the country. He also promised to organise programmes that will make it easy for them to learn skills and be reintegrated.

According to France 24, one of the released persons, Ibrahim Usman, told reporters at the ceremony he was arrested at a security checkpoint on the allegation of being a terrorist after he could not provide an identification card.

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“I was never a member of Boko Haram but I spent four years in detention,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) disclosed in a report published in September that nearly 22,000 Nigerians have been reported missing in the Northeast in the past decade—the highest recorded in any country.

“What troubles me is that I haven’t heard whether he is dead or alive. I just don’t know. Whenever I cook food for his siblings, I think about him. For the three years that we stayed in Maiduguri, my husband was very distressed and would repeatedly have nightmares. He would call the name of our abducted son, ‘Alkali, Alkali, Alkali’ all the time,” Falmata Amodu, the mother of a 10-year-old boy who went missing in 2013 was quoted to have said.

On Monday, The ICIR published an investigative report “about the struggle of the Borno women seeking justice for their men, some of who are believed dead or detained by the Nigerian Army for offences for which they are yet to be charged”.

The Centre also organised a roundtable meeting on Wednesday that brought stakeholders together to deliberate on how to ensure the government accounts for the missing persons, many of whom have been detained for years without trial.

'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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