How Nigerian Military is Managing Surrendered Boko Haram Members- Gen Christopher Musa
· Says ISWAP are foreign terrorists coming to invade our country but that will never happen
A major twist in the ongoing war on terror in the North East is the unprecedented mass surrender of Boko Haram terrorists to the Nigerian troops. At the last count, about 10, 000 Commanders, fighters and their family members have dropped their arms, renounced membership of the group and surrendered to the military. A number of factors or a combination of them had been adduced as what led to the unprecedented development, chief of which is the relentless bombardment by the military from land and air on enclaves of the terrorists.
Expectedly, this development has generating mixed reactions and varied emotions from Nigerians. While some see the mass surrender as a welcome development that signifies the beginning of the end of the decade-long insurgency in the north east, not a few others think otherwise and in fact believe that the Boko Haram terrorists must not be trusted and that on no account should the military pamper those of them that claimed to have surrendered.
In order to put the new development in perspective and to provide clarity on how the surrendering ex-fighters are being handled, the Nigerian Army Headquarters organized a media tour of Borno State, the epicenter of Boko Haram terrorism and counter terrorism, for Defence Correspondents. The media tour took the journalist to Headquarters of Operation Hadin Kai, the Headquarters of 7 Division (the ‘Fighting Division of Nigerian Army’) and to a holding facility located in central Borno where the Army conducts the profiling and processing of surrendered fighters.
The highpoint of the media tour was the interaction between the journalists and the Theatre Commander, Joint Task Force North East Operation Hadin Kai, Major General Christopher Musa. He fielded questions from the reporters on a number of issues regarding the mass surrender of terrorists and how it is being managed using the approach termed “Borno Model”. Our Chief Defence Correspondent, Chidi Omeje was there. Enjoy.
On his message to recalcitrant members of Boko Haram who are yet to surrender:
I want to call on all those insurgents, those who have not made up their minds, those that are scared or worried about what will happen to them when they come out, that the best option for everyone is to surrender and come out to peaceful environments. The Chief of Army Staff once mentioned that it doesn’t make sense for humans to go and stay in the bushes just like animals.
For whatever reason, they have no cause to take arms against the nation; they have no cause to kill anybody. Anybody that has any issue with the nation should come out, there are avenues that have been provided for them to air their views and it will be listened to and attended to; I’m sure there will be solution.
We want to call on all those still staying whether with ISWAP or any other armed group anywhere in the country that there’s no reason taking arms against the nation. They should disarm and join the nation to develop a greater Nigeria for our future. I’m sure even them too want their children to have a conducive atmosphere where they will grow, where there’ll be developments. So, staying in the bush and killing people will not provide that, they should not allow anybody to deceive them into taking arms against the nation, they will never win. They can never win. And so it is important for them to understand that right from the beginning. Anybody who disarms will be treated fairly, according to international laws. There are laws of the Federation that will guide all this issues, especially those ones that are combatant. Those ones that have surrendered are being sorted out. Some of them were conscripted forcefully, some of them grew up with the system without even knowing what was going on, some of them are just been held as ordinary slaves, used as farmers or whatever. We will sort everybody out, and then the law will take its cause, that we can guarantee the nation. So, we want to assure the citizenry that we’re on top of the game. We assure them we will continue to do our very best to ensure that peace returns to the northeast, which is our mandate. Thank you.
On whether the surrendered fighters are kept IDPs:
I’m very happy you asked that question because I’m sure since you came, you have gone around Maiduguri and see that there is no way we can mix them up with the IDPs. IDPs are those ones who have left their communities because of the actions or inactions of certain individuals. Now the IDPs have come separately and are being treated fairly by the government while these ones are handled separately. They are sorted out; the commanders are kept at a separate location while those that are not part of it are also sorted out and kept at a different location, there is no mixture. Everybody is going to answer according to his own deeds. So we guarantee the public that they should be confident that the Nigerian military, the Operation Hadin Kai will ensure that the proper thing and the right thing is done. No compromise; we will ensure that we do the right thing always.
On the belief in some quarters that surrendered terrorists are being pampered:
Internationally, during combats, if somebody surrenders, by law, we are not allowed to shoot that individual. W are supposed to pull him up, arrest him and treat him humanely. Now I don’t know if people misconceive humane treatment as pampering. If he is sick, we’re supposed to treat him, if he’s hungry, he will be given him food; we are supposed to provide shelter just like any other person, and that is exactly what we’re doing. So there is no aspect of pampering; we’re just keeping them as humans, to ensure that they are fit enough to go through the proper procedure, and they will definitely go through this procedure. So again, let me assure the public that there is no any aspect of pampering; we are sorting them out so that those ones that didn’t play any part will be handled separately while those ones that took part actively, the combatants will be treated separately. So there’s nothing like pampering of anybody.
On measures put in place to ascertain the genuineness of their surrender:
If you look at how even the surrendering commenced, it was because of the kinetic and non-kinetic action. The kinetic action was to bring them to table, to make them understand that you cannot fight the nation and win. And that’s what the military has been doing all this while, and it is yielding the results; the non-kinetic as well is to give them options, windows of opportunity; instead of staying and being killed, they have the opportunity of repenting and coming out. And When you come out, the laws will take its course by treating you and knowing exactly what it is you have done. We have advised governments that after all that, we need to get the victims across; we have seen models used in other countries such as South Africa, Rwanda because no matter what you do, the kinetic aspect will never be the last and final solution. There must be dialogue and is this aspect of the dialogue that brings the people together to sit down with them. We will sit down with the victims and there’ll be a truth and reconciliation committee where people will look at themselves face to face and see what was done and what next. The victims will listen and agree on this. Whatever process is being put in place, the victims will be carried along. We want to ensure that the victims don’t lose out at whatever aspects. So people should be assured that the proper process is going to take place. There won’t be any compromise.
Some of the victims are military men; I can tell you I’ve lost wonderful officers and soldiers. So, for us to even accept them, has been very difficult. But professionally, we are meant to ensure that we arrest them, bring them in and then the justice will take its proper cause through the Constitution. We want Nigerians to understand that fully; that operation Hadin Kai is just doing its own bit and that the military operation is just one line of operation, which is about 20%. The remaining 80% has to do with diplomacy, with humanitarian activities, with Justice and rule of law.
Some of the procedures are done by our own intelligence agency, the DIA and by the DSS and all our security agencies, including the Immigration, the Customs and that’s what makes it operation Joint Task Force operation. So everybody that has anything to do is also checking; we have also invited the NIMC (Nigerian Identity Management Commission) who is coming to take the profiles of everybody. They will thumb print them and do other biometrics. So after this, you will know that we know what we are doing, we will know where they are; we can assure you that right process which we term “ Borno Model” is taking place and nobody’s going to be compromised.
Any assurance of hope to Nigerians?
I want to assure Nigerians that there’s a greater hope for good. There has never been a better time that we have hope on the resolution of these issues than now. They are coming out on their own volition; without anybody giving them peanuts. Nobody paid anyone to come out; we did not pay them to come out. They have understood that the kinetic effort is dealing with them, and they have a window of opportunity to surrender; I think they’ve taken that window of opportunity to come back.
So everybody should be assured that what is going on now has the probability of bringing this insurgency in the Northeast to an end and I can assure you that if the region is peaceful, it will cascade down to other portions of the country, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
The ISWAP is a foreign organization; it is funded by foreign individuals, and probably some local ones and then they have foreign leadership, which means they have no stake in Nigeria. I want that to be very clear here; they are foreigners coming to invade our country. We will never, ever allow that to happen. And that’s why I want to encourage those of them especially Shekau members that are with them to pull out and understand that they have no stake in what those guys are doing. They don’t mean the country well; they don’t mean themselves well. We will never allow any foreigner an inch on the ground in Nigeria.
So, we want to make that very clear so that people understand that. I can assure you that we will see to the end of insurgency in the Northeast, and that is very important. The ISWAP do not have the manpower; they were relying on the Shekau group as members, and that’s why they (Shekau group) is coming out and as you can see ISWAP is frustrated. They are trying to recruit foreign fighters to come in and come and fight for them. And that’s what diplomatically we’re saying, it is important for our neighbours not to allow anybody to use their own land to come into Nigeria for whatever reason. It is that important and that’s the diplomatic aspects that we’re also looking at. Thank you very much.
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