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The fear of releasing repentant terrorists

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By Nicole

Will the terrorists use their freedom to continue their mischief?

Given the persistence of terrorism and related bloodshed wreaking havoc in several regions of the country, the concern of many Nigerians regarding the planned release of 613 “rehabilitated” terrorists to various state governors is not unwarranted. Given the nature of their business, the biggest concern is if the terrorists won’t use their freedom to recoup their terrorism venture. However, there are equally important questions about the propriety of the release, especially in light of the horrifying crime that was done and the government’s apparent intention to obstruct the course of justice for the nation and the victims of the crime. Furthermore, the Federal Government has a hard time persuading Nigerians that the military exercised due diligence in screening the suspects before approving their release. Moreover, what mechanism has been set up to effectively monitor more than 600 terrorists and make sure they don’t get into trouble again?

It is hardly breaking news that the military intends to give some state governors access to 613 rehabilitated terrorists in the near future. This action advances Operation Safe Corridor, a counterterrorism tool designed to deradicalize, rehabilitate, and reintegrate penitent Boko Haram insurgents into society. It was launched by the federal government in 2016. However, this information has put many Nigerians in a condition of anxiety and uncertainty, especially those who live in the terrorized areas of the nation. The causes of this response are not implausible. The victims of terrorism have yet to receive justice, the country is still being torn apart by insurgency despite previous efforts at deradicalization, disarmament, and rehabilitation, and very incidentally, “repentant” terrorists can be easily used by political opportunists to taint the upcoming general elections.

Terrorism transcends the boundaries of mere crime.

Mr. Timothy Avele, a security specialist, exhaled his remark and said, “you cannot release so-called repentant terrorists back into society while the battle is still raging’. Who oversees them? How can the military or government be certain that its members are fighting for the country and not their terrorist brethren? Additionally, Senator Ali Ndume said that the Federal Government cannot be resettling and pampering former terrorists while the country is still at war while opposing the deradicalization and reintegration policy. Brigadier General Sani Usman (ret.) also criticized this tactic, saying there is no where else in the world where you have such a large number of terrorists to surrender, so you need to come up with a new technique to deal with them. First, we must improve the legal system. We have to make sure the victims receive justice.

According to reports, many of Operation Safe Corridor’s beneficiaries not only went back to their former habits but also now work as spies for terrorist organizations. Some Boko Haram defectors who had been rehabilitated and relocated to the Government Girls Secondary School Bama in Borno State were accused in July 2022 of continuing to conduct business with their former comrades, Boko Haram fighters, in a market known as Daula that was situated outside of Goniri village. The former militants’ devotion is obviously quite dubious. The military must explain how it came to the judgment that the insurgents who will soon be released are now repentant.  The definition of terrorism goes beyond simple criminal activity since it is a movement with powerful indoctrination at its core. Terrorists are followers of a particular cause who use the weapon of extreme violence to spread their views, unlike typical violent criminals.

The FG is quick to release terrorists but not remorseful with victims.

It is questionable whether Operation Safe Corridor is adequately and thoroughly planned to address the underlying problems that have facilitated extremism in the intention of preventing similar acts of terrorism, especially through mild counterterrorism methods are practiced everywhere. For instance, due to its counter-indoctrination efforts to drastically re-orient and re-indoctrinate violent extremists, Saudi Arabia is thought to run one of the best terrorist rehabilitation programs in the world. Given that Saudi Arabia has extremely low recidivism and rarest rates, this technique has produced some very interesting and promising results. This accomplishment might also have something to do with the fact that terrorists only have two options: surrender or be put to death.

In comparison, Nigeria’s defector program has not significantly improved the country’s security situation. Instead of slowing down, terrorism has now taken on a number of shapes in the North, including kidnapping, and other violent crimes. It appears like Operation Safe Corridor has transformed into a factory that regularly releases “renounced” terrorists into society with no end in sight. It does, in fact live up to its reputation as a haven for terrorists to hide from prosecution for their deeds. It is noteworthy that the government is eager to extend an olive branch to terrorists but less eager to do enough to ease the suffering and anguish of individuals who have experienced terrorism. It is unfair and insensitive to construct a counterterrorism strategy without taking into account the rights of individuals who have suffered at the hands of terrorists and those who have lived under the harsh rule of Boko Haram.

Boko Haram fighters have unleashed irreversible pain.

Fighters for Boko Haram have wreaked unimaginable suffering and agony that is more fitting for Hollywood blockbusters than real life. Tens of thousands of people, including civilians and servicemen, have been killed and kidnapped by them. They have also forced women and girls into marriage with their fighters, destroyed several communities, and carried out terrorist attacks with a high death toll on mosques, churches, markets, and camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs). However, not a single member is now on trial in any Nigerian court. As a result, the government’s proposed use of amnesty as the sole alternative to military conflict is unacceptable. It raises questions about the government’s commitment to waging a decisive and aggressive anti-terrorism campaign. It is naïve to believe that religious radicals may suddenly transform. Despite having an effective anti-terrorism program, even Saudi Arabia has experienced its fair share of terrorist incidents recently.

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