Some senior advocates of Nigeria have cautioned the Federal Government against welcoming some Boko Haram members who recently laid down their arms and reintegrating them without first ascertaining that they no longer pose a threat to society.
This is as the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said contrary to “misleading reports,” insurgents who surrendered to the government could still be prosecuted. He however restated that international conventions accord prisoners of war certain rights and privileges.
The Nigerian Army, in a statement by its spokesperson, Onyema Nwachukwu, on August 10, announced that no fewer than 1,000 Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (a Boko Haram offshoot) members had laid down their arms and surrendered to the troops.
Again, on August 16, the Army said 186 Boko Haram members led by their Amir, Manye Aga, comprising 67 adult males, 54 adult females and 65 children, surrendered to troops of Operation HADIN KAI at Forward Operational Base, Ajiri.
The army spokesman also disclosed that the theatre took custody of additional Boko Haram fighters, comprising four adult males, 11 adult females and 18 children from Landanli, Azah, Ngaridua and Kondilla villages, who, on August 15, surrendered to troops of 151 Task Force Battalion at Banki Junction in Bama.
But in separate interviews with Sunday PUNCH, the senior lawyers expressed concern that giving the so-called repentant terrorists access to sensitive security positions could be detrimental for the country’s efforts to restore peace and security.
Mr Yusuf Ali stated that it was essential to ascertain that the insurgents had truly repented. He however explained that negotiation was to be expected, arguing that even in a shooting war, people would still approach the roundtable and talk.
Ali said, “If amnesty could be granted for militants in the Niger Delta, once we are sure that the terms of amnesty will not be abused and the government is prepared to provide all the necessary follow-ups and checks to ensure that those who say they have repented are not part of a decoy, to re-enter society and radicalise other people in society.
“We must be very sure that they have repented. In principle, there is nothing bad in granting amnesty to people who have wronged a country or people, but we must be very sure that we have the wherewithal, in terms of security, to be able to ensure that those who say they have repented are under close watch and monitored.
“Not only that, we must also provide opportunities of employment. When the Niger Delta militants were granted amnesty, some of them were sent for courses within and outside Nigeria but we must just ensure that we do not give a blank cheque to those who are just pretending they have repented when it’s not true.”
Mr Babatunde Fashanu, in the same vein, argued that if some of the “repentant” terrorists wanted to surrender, the government should accept them, but that it was also dangerous to reintegrate them into society, especially, if they were enlisted in the military.
Fashanu said, “They shouldn’t put them in the military; that must be underscored. But if they want to use them for intelligence, they can put them somewhere and get the information they want to get from them, but they shouldn’t put them in the military, to avoid a situation like that of Afghanistan.
“It was said that some Taliban were reabsorbed into the Afghan army and they were still the ones that gave their leaders information about the army and they overran them. So, it is very dangerous to absorb them into the military but they can use them to get information.
“As for whether they should be pardoned, people who have killed a lot of people ordinarily ought to pay, otherwise, people will keep bombing people, knowing that in the future, they can simply come out to say they are surrendering. I think that there should be some punishment for them; they shouldn’t let them go scot-free. The punishment can be lessened.”
Similarly, Mr Ahmed Raji, stated that there was always room for forgiveness, adding that even God Almighty forgives. He also raised the alarm about bringing the terrorists into the fold of security agencies.