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Communities Have Welcomed Repentant Boko Haram Fighters, No Resident Is Rejecting Them - Chief Of Defence Staff Boasts

The Chief of Defence Staff and Chairman, Operation Safe Corridor, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, called on communities of repentant Boko Haram members to welcome them warmly, calling on others still with the sect to lay down their arms.

Olonisakin, represented by Director of Education, Real Admiral V C Okeke, noted that the 601 members of the sect surrendered before a 12-man quasi-judicial committee to take the oath of allegiance.

He spoke during a speech delivered at the Batch 4, 2019 clients from the DRR camp in Mallam Sidi, Kwami LGA of Gombe State.

He said, “I’m glad to inform you that the clients have been fully reintegrated and, wholly accepted by their host communities. Since 2017 when the first set graduated, there has not been any negative report concerning anyone of them.

“My expectation, therefore, is that they are discharged from Operation Safe Corridor to their state governments through the traditional and religious institutions to see they are well reconciled, resettled and reintegrated in the interest of peace and love for our dear nation.

“Let me seize this opportunity to advise members of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province still lurking around in the forests  to lay down their arms, embrace peace and join the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programme in their own interest.

“To this end, the armed forces in Nigeria and other security agencies operating in the North-East will provide safe passage for them to lay down their arms for good.

I have observed steady progress of the scheme and no doubt it is a working strategy complementing other efforts of the Federal Government to restore peace in the North-East.”

Also speaking, the Coordinator, Operation Safe Corridor, Maj. Gen. Bamidele Shafa, noted that the repentant members had shown positive signs of patriotism to the country.

He stated, “Today, we are witnessing a major achievement of the Federal Government of Nigeria at ensuring lasting peace in the North-East. Since the commencement of Operation Safe Corridor in 2016, a total of 914 clients have undergone the deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programme.

“Among which 280 including two Chadians have been successfully transferred to their state authorities for reintegration. I am glad to inform you that these clients have been fully reintegrated and wholly accepted by their host communities. Since 2017 when the first set of 29 people graduated and reintegrated, there has been no negative report concerning any of them. Today, the largest set of 601 is graduating for reintegration to their nation and state.”

He added that on arrival at the camp, the clients went through documentation processes to yield vital background information after which they were subjected to comprehensive medical screening to determine their health statuses.

“Their DNA samples were also collected while their biometrics were captured on National Data using the National Identity Management Commission, facilities for future references. The background information serves as a guide for the experts, the Local Treatment Team, to properly place the clients for treatment therapies and vocational training. The LTT are specialised experts in various fields of deradicalisation and rehabilitation therapies drawn from the Nigerian Correctional Service,” he said.

The governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, represented by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaka Lawan, expressed optimism the programme would bring respite to the region.

He said, “Bringing out over 600 fighters from the bush to lay their arms, rehabilitate them to denounce membership of an illegal sect and to proclaim the citizenship of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a great job. I’m highly delighted.”

He denied that some residents of the state protested against the impending return of the ex-Boko Haram members to their respective communities.

He added, “I am not aware of that but rejection by the community cannot be ruled out because of the trauma and what they have found themselves in over the years. But with enough advocacy and sensitisation and the report that we are presenting to the government for implementation, they will be welcomed.

“During their screening, we discovered that 80 per cent were innocent from 2009 to 2020. It’s about 11 years. We were witnesses to the bombings and sporadic shootings. To criminals still fighting in the bush, they have an option of laying down their arms and embrace peace. The Federal Government and Borno State government are willing to accept them, rehabilitate them and allow them to live peacefully. But if they refuse, I can assure you that their days are numbered. Sooner or later, the armed forces will nip their activities in the bud.”

Presenting starter packs to the former Boko Haram members, the representative of the North-East Development Commission, Abba Musa, said the aim of the presentation was to support the ex-fighters to be self-employed and useful to their various communities after their training on camp.

He said, “I want to urge beneficiaries to use the items for the purposes they are meant for and to become employers of labour in future.”

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