By Sumaila Ogbaje, Abuja.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, says 613 rehabilitated low-risk repentant terrorists will be transferred to their state governments for reintegration into the society.
Irabor made the disclosure during the fifth Stakeholders’ Meeting of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), on Thursday in Abuja.
Represented by the Chief of Defence Training and Operation, Maj.-Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, the CDS said that the 613 clients were currently undergoing de-radicalization and rehabilitation, handled by the OPSC.
He said that the meeting would exhaustively discuss the De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) programme, ahead of the transfer of the rehabilitated ex-terrorists to their state governments.
Irabor said the OPSC was established by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2015, as a window for willing and repentant terrorists to lay down their arms and undergo a structured DRR programme.
He added that the scheme was a multi-agency and humanitarian operation, utilising the expertise of over 17 services, ministries, departments and agencies, supported by local and international organisations and friendly nations.
The CDS said that the successes of OPSC had continued to resonate within the region and in the Diaspora, thereby attracting the interest of researchers from far and wide.
“It is also important to mention that upon graduation from the programme, each client will be provided some food and personal items, as well as start-up pack, according to the trade learnt during the training, to enable them set up small businesses and start a new life.”
Irabor urged the receiving state governments to provide the necessary support to enable the ex-combatants to wade through the transitional and most challenging phase of their lives.
“We are optimistic that working closely with local and traditional authorities, the states can deploy the security apparatus at their disposal, to effectively track and evaluate the re-integrated ex-combatants.
“I must emphasise that this is critical for all stakeholders involved in the reintegration processes, in order to mitigate or completely eliminate incidences of recidivism,” he said.
Irabor said that the armed forces had significantly degraded Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists and restricted them to a small portion of Sambisa Forest and isolated islands on the Lake Chad.
He said: “Through consistent and effective air interdictions, along with well-coordinated clearance operations on positively identified strongholds of the insurgents, troops have continued to inflict heavy casualties on the groups and their leadership.
“These sustained operations continue to put pressure and confusion within the ranks of the adversary causing many to surrender to the armed forces.
“As at today, over 83,000 insurgents and their family members have surrendered, while those captured have been tried and sentenced to various jail terms by the law courts.
“As we speak, many more captured combatants are being held in several correctional facilities and their trial is ongoing.”
The CDS said that the military had been adopting kinetic and non-kinetic methods to win the war against insurgency.
“I must emphasise that counterinsurgency operation is dynamic and requires a lot of ingenuity and proactive strategies to achieve success.
“One of such strategies adopted by the Federal Government is by extending an olive branch to low profile members of the insurgent groups who form the critical mass,” he said.
The Coordinator of OPSC, Maj.-Gen. Joseph Maina, said that the programme had successfully processed 1,573 clients, comprising 1,555 Nigerians and 18 foreigners from Cameroon, Chad and Niger since its commencement in 2016.
Maina said that all the foreign clients had been transferred to their respective countries for reintegration.
He said that the 613 clients were transferred to the DRR camp on Sept. 8, 2022, to commence training, adding that some of them were five foreigners from Chad and Niger.
The OPSC coordinator disclosed that 19 of the clients have been transferred to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital neurological center for expert psychiatric management.
On the meeting, Maina said that it was to work out modalities for the smooth transfer of the clients to their national and state authorities for reintegration after graduation in February.
“Specifically, at the end of this meeting, all stakeholders would be fully abreast with activities of OPSC and DRR programme, in particular.
“The state authorities and the MDAs would know, in specific terms, the roles they would play in the transfer as well as reintegration process of the clients.
“Identify and recommend in specific terms affordable resettlement package for the clients and assign responsibilities to relevant MDAs to provide.
“Determine the mode of community sensitization, camp visitation and community service programmes, to take and ratify the graduation dates and initiate arrangements for the ceremony,” he said.
The Secretary to the Government of Adamawa, Malam Bashiru Ahmad, said that Adamawa State had been collaborating with OPSC to bring the clients’ parents together and prepare communities to receive them after de-radicalization.
He said that they were at the stakeholders’ meeting to look at what could be done to ensure the effectiveness of the programme, while expressing optimism that the effort would yield the desired result.
On her part, Borno State Commissioner for Women affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo, said that the state had received the largest chunk of the repentant terrorists since the programme started.
She assured that the state would continue to assess the clients, even after their graduation from OPSC in Gombe, so as to ensure that there were ready for reintegration into their communities.
Gambo said that the only difference between the Borno model of de-radicalization and OPSC was the military involvement, adding that the Borno model was more civil in outlook.
According to her, the repentant terrorists live with their families in Borno camps, while the camp in Gombe only allows visits by families.
She called for more support from Federal Government and relevant stakeholders for the state government achieve its desired objectives.