Repentant boko haram members begin de-radicalization programme

Rebecca Mu’azu, Gombe

The boko haram members at the start of the training

A second batch of repentant boko haram members has arrived at a camp in Gombe state, where they will undergo sixteen weeks of de-radicalisation and rehabilitation, in order to reintegrate them into the society.

The 52 people, mostly from Gwoza, Borno State, are expected to undergo the programme under Operation Safe Corridor, which is a multidimensional effort of the Federal Government to restore lasting peace and security in the North-East.

Speaking during the orientation of the clients at the camp in Gombe, the Coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor, Major General Bamidele Shafa, said they would be exposed to various vocational skills and trained on the essence of nationalisation.

Major General Shafa said some of Nigeria’s best hands and a highly secured and de-radicalization and rehabilitation camp with state of the art security facilities, would provide them the opportunity to undergo extensive therapies in spiritual counselling psychotherapy and drug abuse intervention.

He said they would also be introduced to various vocations, western education, arts, social works and sports, as part of their therapies before they resettle to their place of residence, which is furnished with all the comfort required.

Major General Shafa said, “the essence of the mission was to encourage willing, repentant and surrendered boko haram combatants to go through the well planned, deliberately deradicalization, rehabilitation and re-integration process, so that they will be re-integrated back into the larger society.”  

The Coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor encouraged the repentant boko haram members to make use of the opportunity given to them and make the North-East safer and peaceful, promising them that they would be linked up with their families.

He said the programme was being supported at the camp by eleven government agencies, such as the Immigration Service, the Nigerian Prison Service, the Civil Defence, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and the Ministry of Women Affairs, because it was a humanitarian service which would be guided by international conventions and laws.

Major General Shafa said there were international organisations and countries willing to partner with the Nigerian Government to ensure the re-integration of the repentant boko haram members.

He said after the training, the clients would be equipped with incentives, such as micro-grants to enable them start off their trade.

Shafa added that plans were on the way to construct a vocational training centre at the camp to enhance and upgrade the training facilities and qualities of skills there.

First Batch

The First Batch of the boko haram members had six people at the camp, where they were equally engaged in various vocations, including farming.

They were trained in various skills by the National Directorate of Employment for sixteen weeks and graduated on June 6.

They went back to their various families and continued training with the directorate in areas of their choice.

The Coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor, Major General Shafa, said the first clients were very proud of the people they turned out to be, when they were leaving the camp.

“I can say very boldly, that by the time they were leaving here at the end of the sixteenth week, they were here for sixteen weeks, they were better reformed and they were proud to have gone through this programme. While they were here, we made contact with their parents, their relations and at the end of the programme, through a deliberate measure, planned programme, through the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and in various states, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, they were handed over to their relations.

And also in collaboration with the National Directorate of Employment, they were taken into the NDE Vocational Training Centres in their places of residence, so that they could learn the vocations they have shown interest in here in the camp.”

The Coordinator of Operation Safe Corridor said there was one female client, who was thought to be part of the Chibok Girls, but was discovered to be a member of the boko haram group.

He said she was also in the camp, bringing the number of those there to 53.

Major General Shafa said the female was receiving special treatment under female social workers, while arrangements were being made for her to have her separate accommodation.

Screening

The clients on arrival at the camp went through various stages of screening and documentation, including medical screening and background checks.

They also registered for their National Identity Card and got registered through biometric data capture.

Major General Shafa said their data would be used for future reference.

“Their medicals are taken because we want to establish their medical status so that we will know how to treat them. And then we collected their DNA samples for future reference. One other thing we are also doing is capturing them on National Data. We have the National ID Card Management Commission set up an office in the camp. As you can see they are capturing the clients on National Data for future reference,” Major General Shafa said.

The repentant boko haram members were given comfortable accommodation with each having a bed, equipped with mosquito treated nets, toiletries and beddings.

Operation Safe Corridor also made provision for their safe drinking water, with the establishment of a water treatment plant, which is supplying water to all the residents of the camp, including camp officials.

According to Major General Shafa: “We strongly believe that this set of clients we brought in here today, will also successfully go through the programme. And the whole essence is that this programme will encourage other willing combatants still walking around in the bush to come out and embrace the opportunity that the Federal Government has given them. That will also quicken the resolution of the conflict in the North-East.”

The rice farms by the first batch of clients also seem promising for the second batch to tend to and finish off.

Their Experience

At the registration desk at the camp, some of them said they were forced into the group, when their towns and villages were invaded by the boko haram group.

They said they were coming from time to time to take them for operations from their homes without any monetary or material benefits or rewards.

They said they could not continue with the hardship they were facing, so they resolved to surrender, lay down their arms and prepare for normal civil life with their families and community members.

They all pledged to cooperate with the authorities in the camp to learn a skill, in order to have a safer and peaceful North-East, and Nigeria as a whole.