The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, has said not all 2,600 repentant bandits could be categorised as criminals.
Governor Zulum stated this on Tuesday while briefing State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja.
According to him, the twelve-year insurgency in the northeast region has claimed over 100,000. He added that about 10 per cent of its natives have also missed due to the revolution.
He said most of those who surrendered were women and young children compelled to join the insurgents and trained to handle AK-47s.
Governor Zulum stated that no law prescribes the killing of surrendered insurgents, which would be trained for reintegration.
He noted that part of his discussion with President Buhari was the issue of the surrendered insurgents. He said insurgents victims would be taken care of, saying ‘they will not be left behind.’
Governor Zulum further said that on about fifty occasions, he had been attacked by the insurgent. He stated that he would continue to support the victims, particularly those who lost their parents.
The Governor, who also spoke on the purpose of his visit to Abuja, said: ‘I came to brief Mr President over the ongoing surrender by insurgents. To me, and the more significant majority of people of Borno State, this is an outstanding development.
‘In the last 12 years, thousands of lives were lost, people have entirely lost their means of livelihood. We have over 50,000 orphans and widows; these are official figures, the unofficial figures are more than this, and we were able to cultivate not more than three per cent of our total arable land because of the insurgency. Right now, the whereabouts of not less than 10 per cent of the people of Borno State is not known to all of us at all.
‘This is a grave matter, and I think the report of the surrendering of the insurgents, to me in particular and to the more extraordinary people of Borno State, is a very welcomed development. Unless we want to continue with an endless war, I see no reason why we shall reject those that are willing to surrender.
‘I came to brief Mr President on this matter, and Mr President has given my humble self and the people of Borno State the assurances of his continued support in this direction, so that this matter can be resolved amicably,’ he said.
Governor Zulum also emphasised that the mass surrendering of repentant bandits will bring peace and end the protracted insurgency, saying he supports the development.
He added that not all surrendering insurgents could be categorised as criminals as many are also victims forced into terrorism at very young ages.
According to the Governor, ‘deepening internal democracy and social cohesion is a prelude to sustainable peace in any nation. Therefore, we’re not unaware of the adverse effects of this programme, but that is why we want to see the federal government’s involvement on a large scale.
‘We are going back to Maiduguri to have more comprehensive consultations with the victims themselves, the traditional rulers and the generality of the people of Borno State, the major stakeholders, including the Nigerian Army, the civilian JTF and others, to develop a framework that will ensure the sustainability of this programme.
‘We are not unmindful of this issue; it’s not a tiny issue because we are not just saying that those that have surrendered shall be reintegrated into the society very soon, no.
‘But mind you, among those that have surrendered, some are innocent, that were forcefully conscripted into this programme.
‘Some are teenagers, below the ages of 11, 12, who can handle AK-47, and there’s one essential thing that Nigerians need to understand; if this issue of Boko Haram, insurgency, is not resolved, I believe it will never end because it is a generation.
‘Those that came out from the bush, you can see one person has two wives, three wives in the bush, he has ten children. These children are well trained to behave in such a manner. What is this manner? Carrying AK-47, and it’s a generation.
‘Therefore, I think it is the best possible option for us to see that we resolve this issue by involving the federal government because the federal government is a significant stakeholder. The President has agreed to provide the leadership.
‘We can also involve the international community and other stakeholders; the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs is very key. The Defense Ministry, the army, the Police, DSS and others are also very important to develop a framework that will ensure the sustainability of this programme,’ he said.
Speaking on the way forward, zulum said: ‘We shall immediately call a stakeholders’ meeting in Borno State, comprising of the Minister of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Attorney General, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and most importantly, the NIA also because we have some specific foreign involvement in the matter, the traditional rulers and especially the victims, so that we can come up with any solutions, far-reaching recommendations that can be programmed in a structured manner, to ensure amicable resolution of this issue.
‘I think it’s not right for me to say that that is what we’re doing immediately, but I think this is the first thing that we need to do, then after this, the recommendations can also be forwarded to the President, but the most important thing is that I, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, the Governor of Borno State, I’ve been in this cycle for a long time. I’m the pioneer Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement.’