Ex-soldiers Condemn Reintegrating Terrorists Into Society

Some retired soldiers have cautioned the Federal Government against rehabilitating and reintegrating repentant terrorists who have completed the government’s deradicalisation programme, Operations Safe Corridor (OSC).

The rehabilitation initiative reportedly began under former president Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and has involved at least 4,000 former Boko Haram members.

In January 2023, around 613 rehabilitated terrorists undergoing de-radicalisation were set to be handed over by the military authorities to their respective state governors.

However, in July 2022, some repentant Boko Haram members, despite disavowing their ties to the terror group, were accused of maintaining contact with their former associates and providing them with intelligence.

These former terrorists were part of the group of 800 individuals recently reintegrated into the Bama community in Borno State and were resettled at the Government Girls’ Secondary School Bama.

Speaking on the development, a retired colonel, Hassan Stan-Labo told Punch that, “If we have mobilised and brought them (terrorists) out for rehabilitation, it is already too late; there is nothing we can do but to go the whole hog; go through the entire demobilisation, de-radicalisation and rehabilitation.

“However, if I were the commander-in-chief, my instructions would have been: ‘Don’t bring anybody for any damn rehabilitation; you bloody well will pay the price for whatever you have done on the battle front’.

“You want a battle, come get the battle. You have committed all kinds of atrocities and now, you turn around begging for forgiveness.

“We don’t have a responsibility to forgive you; we hasten your journey to heaven. Go and meet God and ask for penance. What do we tell the people in the displaced persons camps, who are not even getting the kind of treatment we are giving these guys?

“We can have the biometrics of these guys and since fingerprints are used in the course of recruitment, we should be able to fish out those who may want to join the military. If we have a very effective intelligence network on the ground, this wouldn’t happen. I’m also aware that the Borno State Government is documenting their biometrics data. That’s a very good starting point.” 

Another retired military officer, who served in the Nigerian Navy but chose not to disclose his name, mentioned that it was inaccurate to assume that terrorists would repent simply because the government enrolled them in a programm.

He said, “We are talking of hard criminals who kill innocent people for a living and leave families deserted. They destroy people’s livelihoods and feel nothing. Why will a few months or years programme deradicalise them? What was the government thinking when it said it wants to reintegrate them back into the society to live with the same people whom they rendered homeless? The government needs to have a clear rethink. No terrorist should be treated with kid’s gloves.”

Former Department of State Services director, Mike Ejiofor, also expressed concerns about the rehabilitation program, noting its lack of thorough planning and poor timing.

He said, “The government has been releasing some of them under the notion that they have been de-radicalised. These same people will go back into the society and start wreaking havoc. I think the government should reconsider its stance on the release of de-radicalised insurgents to avoid reintroducing criminals into the society.

“You can’t continue to release them in the heat of the problems when none of the people that have been arrested has been successfully prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others. Since they are not prosecuted, they are not afraid of going back to their old way.”

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