THE Nigerian Defence Headquarters said they are rehabilitating and releasing former Boko Haram fighters as a shift from the use of arms and weapons to a soft approach to the war against insurgency in North-eastern Nigerian where terrorism has plagued for over a decade.
“We’ve applied what we call the Kinetic line of operation which is the military engagement of the terrorist group in battle and combat,” said Clement Nwachuku, Defence spokesperson.
“Now, the Federal Government provided this window of opportunity; it is a non-kinetic operation, it’s not a combat operation, It is a soft operation, a humanitarian approach so to speak,” Nwachukwu explained in an interview with The ICIR.
The Defence spokesperson was responding to fears by Nigerians and calls for the suspension of the rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram members back into the society.
The Federal Government in 2016 initiated Operation Safe Corridor (OSC) to de-radicalise repentant Boko Haram members.
About 500 repentant Boko Haram fighters have been rehabilitated between 2016 and 2020 while another 608 are said to be currently going through rehabilitation.
Speaking on this, Nwachukwu said OSC is a window of opportunity provided by the Federal Government.
“It’s a national strategic plan to counteract insurgency and terrorism in North-Eastern Nigeria, It’s a national strategic plan, it’s just coordinated by the military and there are other partners who are involved in that project including international and local partners,” Nwachukwu said.
According to him, the objective of OSC is to use the approach to get the low-risk combatants to abandon the cause and ideology of Boko Haram and surrender willingly and voluntarily.
Nwachukwu argued that the targets of OSC are a set of Boko Haram members who can be easily converted through the process of OSC.
“These are the audience we are targeting; you can’t tell me that if Shekau is arrested today, even if he surrenders today, he will be rehabilitated, No, he must face justice,” the spokesperson stated.
He stated further that ‘in the course of combat, several Boko Haram members have been captured and these people have been made to undergo trial, we as the military do not have power of prosecution, what we do is to profile them, interrogate them and document evidence of their active participation, this is jointly done by the military and other security agencies including the DSS, NPF, NSCDC and in fact the Correctional service, these evidences are documented”.
On recruitment of Boko Haram repentants into the Nigerian military and other security agencies, Nwachukwu said, “the armed forces and security agencies are not recruiting these people whether rehabilitated or not rehabilitate, we are not recruiting any of the elements into the armed forces or the security agencies”.
He said this is so because the repentants do not meet the statutory requirements for recruitment into the armed forces or any of the security agencies.
Though many stakeholders expressed concern over the rehabilitation and release of repentant Boko Haram members, the Defence said there is a reconciliatory process between the communities, the victims and the repentant Boko Haram members.
“It has been identified as one of the major issues in the project and it is taken care of because the community where they have operated are contacted, their families are brought back to relate with them they get into contact with community leaders, stakeholders, opinion leaders, traditional rulers and religious leaders, each of them including those that are not Nigerians., we don’t just reintegrate”.
“We found out that more often than not the society where they come from, over time have been receptive to them, they want them back, they have vocation, they have been trained in carpentry and other skills, they have a means of livelihood, some of them are even employers of labour as we speak, as we speak,” Nwackuwu reiterated.
He said the repentant Boko Haram members now know the falsehood and hypocrisy of the so-called leadership of the terrorist groups because they deprive their foot soldiers while they live in affluence.
Nwachukwu urged Nigerians to dissociate religion from the crisis arguing that it is not religion rather it is ‘pure terrorism’.
“Terrorism is what they are doing, criminality, I am sure there is no religion in Nigeria that encourages the congregants to begin to kill fellow citizens and foreigners and rape women and use women and children as suicide bombers,” he said