The extended war against Boko Haram has drawn in various state reactions to end the bloodletting. Both counterterrorism and counterinsurgency measures utilized by Nigeria and her neighboring countries (Chad, Niger, and Cameroon especially) have not delivered the ultimate anticipated results and outcomes. One of the strategies deployed to end the war was to provide safe landing for repentant terrorists and insurgents. To push this through, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Defense Headquarters introduced the Operation Safe Corridor (OSC) in 2016. The OSC programme is a counterinsurgency approach designed to create a safe passage for repentant Boko Haram terrorists and reintegrate them back into the society.
The programme is formed in line with worldwide norms, run by the military, regulated by the International Organization for Migration, and upheld by the EU and UN. The restoration programme includes vocational training and support, and admittance to deradicalisation programmes. Through this programme, the Nigerian Army has restored and rehabilitated many ex-Boko Haram fighters. The Nigerian Identity Management Commission said it has enlisted around 900 repentant Boko Haram individuals in the country. The project is to help the contrite insurgents become useful citizens. Though the move has hastened the exit of Boko Haram terrorists from the theatre of conflict, it has also encountered firm resistance in parts of the country.
Numerous survivors of Boko Haram assaults have repeated their opposition to welcoming their tormentors back into their communities. The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has blatantly rejected the Operation Safe Corridor programme, believing that it is more injurious to the victims and communities greatly affected by the insurgency than anything else. Survivors of Boko Haram uprising are still experiencing the cruel real factors of the conflict such as the loss of family members, friends, businesses and sources of livelihood, displacement from their homes, etc. They are still exiled in camps. Tens of thousands of people have died because of the continuous war in the Northeast, and the pains are still so fresh as the terrorist assaults continue. It is also critical that the public authority’s acquittal and rehabilitation programme might not have adequately considered the plights of the survivors of Boko Haram assaults.
The Nigerian state should likewise pay notice to the aggregate voices in the dreaded region of conflict. Apparently, the reprieve programme for the repentant Boko Haram insurgents is no doubt a reasonable way to peace and harmony with the disgruntled elements. However, pardon for the truly repentant should not be allowed to brew new conflicts in society.
Counterinsurgency measures by the Nigerian state should include all stakeholders in contention. The voices of the local people should be amplified while deploying discourse as a counter-intimidation and mediation strategy. Additionally, since communities are directly affected by the contention and the reintegration programmes, an upfront investment in the affected families and communities is crucial for the achievement and supportability of the drive.
There ought to be an effective, straightforward and principled method of drawing away fighters from the insurgency. In the event that the Federal Government had no window to lure, win back and resettle repentant fighters, then, at that point the fighters and terrorists who have got tired of the insurgency will have no means to safe surrender or acquiescence, and will battle till they die.
The opposite side of the image was recently painted by Senator Ali Ndume. The agitators have killed thousands and pulverized millions of people and their networks. They have littered the Northeast with vagrants and widows, and have made millions ignorant outcasts. The abominations that they have left on the lives of people are still fresh. A large number of the individuals who have survived bear extreme physical and mental injuries.
The senator proposed that government should keep the repentant terrorists in some place till the war is over and the fresh injuries they have dispensed on people start to heal. The lone spot to keep them would be prison houses of whatever sort. But unending detainment will surely raise the question of whether the government really wants to lure the Boko Haram terrorists to abandon their ways. It also raises questions that border on human rights, which the military in recent years have been very particular about.
In any case, arrangements that include restoration, rehabilitation and reconciliation of contrite contenders would be more welcoming and adequate if more prominent consideration is given to every one of the victims and survivors of the war – the military and civilians alike, and the families and communities in the affected areas. Truth is, there will be no simple arrangement. However, rehabilitation for the casualties of war should stand out far and beyond the efforts to manage the repentant terrorists.
The Safe Corridor programme is a good one for the repentant terrorists, for the war-torn region, for the military and for the nation. The Niger Delta was once a region of terror, but the Amnesty Programme of President Musa Yar’adua brought peace to the region and the nation. A host of the Niger Delta militants surrendered their arms and many of them now live like normal citizens in their various communities. Though not all of them truly left their old ways, the war situation was brought under great control by government. If it worked in the Niger Delta, there is the possibility that the Safe Corridor programme could work in the Northeast and other troubled areas in the country, if pursued with great sense of sincerity, precision, with fairness and equity to all the stakeholders.