The Senate on Thursday started work on a bill for a law seeking the establishment of a national agency for education and rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram insurgents.
When it eventually becomes a law, it will ensure de-radicalisation of repentant Boko Haram militants and other insurgents.
The bill, which was sponsored by the All Progressives Congress member representing Yobe East Senatorial District, and former governor of Yobe State, Senator Ibrahim Gaidam, passed the first reading on Thursday.
But few hours after it passed the first reading, the bill attracted mixed reactions with the Chibok Community, which was attacked by the insurgents in 2014, and the Christian Association of Nigeria condemning it.
It was, however, supported by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.
Reading the bill, Geidam, who is from the same state with the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the document titled, “National agency for the education, rehabilitation, de-radicalization and integration of repentant insurgents in Nigeria,” would ensure that repentant insurgents were fully integrated into society.
The proposed agency, according to the legislation, would provide education opportunities for the insurgents.
It will also rehabilitate, de-radicalise and integrate the repentant insurgents in the country. The proposed agency, according to the bill, will provide recreational sports and fine arts programmes for the repentant insurgents.
The bill also states that the agency will be able to gain a greater understanding of both the immediate needs for combating Boko Haram, as well as tool for counter-radicalisation in the future, by maintaining open lines of communication.
The proposed agency will also provide vocational rehabilitation facilities for the repentant terrorists to learn carpentry, clay shaping, pottery and the like.
The bill adds that repentant insurgents will make use of art through drawings, guided by professional art therapists.
The main aims of the bill are to “provide avenue for rehabilitating, de-radicalising, educating and reintegrating the defectors, repentant and detained members of the insurgent group Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society.
“Provide avenue for reconciliation and promote national security. Provide an-open-door and encouragement for other members of the group who are still engaged in the insurgency to abandon the group, especially in the face of the military pressure.
“Give the government an opportunity to derive insider-information about the insurgent group for greater understanding of the group and its inner workings.
“Gain greater understanding of the insurgents will enable government to address the immediate concerns of violence and study the needs of de-radicalization effort to improve the process of de-radicalization.
“Help disintegrate the violent and poisonous ideology that the group spreads as the programme will enable some convicted or suspected terrorists to express remorse over their actions.
“Make them repent and recant their violent ideology and re-enter mainstream politics, religion and society.”
Recall that the military established a rehabilitating centre in Gombe State for repentant Boko Haram terrorists.
The centre, it was reported, had trained and rehabilitated over 1,000 insurgents since its inception over three years ago.
The Borno State Government had also revealed that about 1,400 repentant Boko Haram suspects had been released by the military and rehabilitated into society.
The Federal Government had in 2017 established the North-East Development Commisson, after a bill establishing it was passed by the National Assembly.
The NEDC is charged with the responsibility to, “among other things, receive and manage funds from allocation of the federal account and international donors for the settlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, houses and business premises of victims of insurgency as well as tackling menace of poverty, illiteracy level, ecological problems and any other related environmental or developmental challenges in the North-East states”- Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe.
FG trying to make insurgency a lucrative business – CAN
CAN’s Director of Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel, in an interview with The PUNCH, said he was not aware of any nation that had successfully undertaken the project of de-radicalising, rehabilising and empowering terrorists.
He stated, “We shall be ready for them at the public hearing on such bills. If the Federal Government is not having an ulterior motive of rewarding terrorism through that bill as most Nigerians believe, the FG, instead, would have put a bill in place that will provide adequate relief materials for victims of terrorism, and concrete measures proposed for adequate compensation for them as well.
“If Nigerian government had taken full responsibility and liability for the welfare and adequate compensation for victims of insurgency, they would have known well if they have defeated Boko Haram or not. They would have also known very well the kind of persons and group of persons that constitute the victims of Boko Haram, kidnapping, and killer Fulani militias.
“Like we have always said, it is the conviction of many Christians and indeed Nigerians that the Federal Government is trying to make insurgency a lucrative business for the large number of unemployed Nigerian youths and young persons, if not what is the justification of the special attention being given to the terrorists at the detriment of the welfare of the victims and the security agents fighting in the bush?”
It’s a dumb idea – Chibok community
Commenting on Geidam’s bill, the Chibok community in Borno State lambasted the Senate, saying the people of the North-East, not insurgents, needed urgent attention and rehabilitation.
Boko Haram had on April 14, 2014 attacked Chibok Secondary School, where they kidnapped 276 girls. On Tuesday, the insurgents again attacked the community.
The Spokesperson for the Kibaku Community Development Association in Chibok, Dr Allen Manasseh, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “Honestly, this must be a very dumb idea. Anyone who supports this bill must be an enemy of this country. We have thousands of internally displaced persons in the North-East who are still scattered around Borno and other states and who need attention.
“We also have a lot of people that are not even in IDPs camps and are struggling on their own in host communities. For someone to try to sponsor a bill to establish an agency for the rehabilitation of Boko Haram members, this bill must not be listened to and must be thrown out at the first reading.”
Benue needs attention too – Group
Also the pan socio-cultural groups of Benue State said that equity and fair play should be the watchword of the National Assembly.
The leader of the pan socio-cultural group, Chief Edward Ujege, said that the Senate should not overlook Benue State which had yet to recover from the destruction by Fulani herdsmen.
Ujege recalled that hundreds of thousands of people who were rendered homeless were still languishing in IDPs camps.
The leader of the pan socio-cultural groups which comprise Mdzough U Tiv, Ochetoha K’ Idoma and Omi Ny’ Igede decried the unfulfilled promise of the Federal Government, which said it would provide N10b for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the destroyed properties in the state.
NSCIA backs Senate
But the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs said it supported the bill.
The NSCIA’s Head (Media and Communication), Ibrahim Aselemi, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “The NSCIA believes that tackling the hydra-headed monster of insurgency, brigandage and kidnapping requires a multi-sectoral approach. Therefore, council supports this solution-based effort, especially that which follows the law of first principle. We are positive that these efforts together with others will end insurgency in the country.”
You haven’t done enough for insurgency victims – BBOG
On its part, the #BringBackOurGirls movement said the plan to set up the agency should be done concurrently with the rehabilitation of thousands of internally displaced persons.
The BBOG spokesman, Nifemi Onifade, described the number of individuals displaced by the Boko Haram insurgents as staggering, adding that the government had not taken good care of them.
He stated, “The truth is that victims have not received enough rehabilitation because there are still many individuals that are displaced; there are still many victims in serious need and a pointer to this is the number of people in IDPs camps.”
Onifade noted, “A lot of people need to be rehabilitated so they can continue with their lives. The Boko Haram insurgency has been going on for over 10 years and the attacks are still continuing, so the number of people in need of such support is staggering.”
The coalition said the authorities had not done enough for the IDPs, noting that they still lacked basic amenities, including access to toilets.
“The government has clearly not done enough as many are still displaced. A visit to any IDPs camp would show a significant lack of basic needs like food, water, toilets, access to education. A lot of kids were displaced and do not have access to education,” the group explained.