By Vincent Ufuoma
President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government is secretly embarking on a welfare program designed to convince top Boko-Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP) leaders to end the more than a decade terrorism war in the North-East, a report by The New Humanitarian has revealed.
The programme, which is spearheaded by the State Security Service (SSS), is tagged Suhlu. It is designed to pull commanders of the terrorist groups out of the forests, rehabilitate them and provide them with a means of livelihood by the government.
It grew out of the behind-the-scenes attempts to free the more than 270 Chibok schoolgirls seized by Boko Haram in 2014. Under Sulhu, defectors are enrolled in a six-month “deradicalisation” course in the military’s demobilisation and reintegration centre in Mallam Sidi, Gombe State.
It is applauded by its supporters as smart warfare – a means to remove senior jihadists from the battlefield more effectively than the stuttering orthodox military campaign.
After promising to renounce violence and be good citizens, they are issued with a graduation certificate, signed by a high court judge – and some have then gone on to set up businesses, from cap-making to chicken-rearing.
According to the report, a total of 150 top leaders of the terrorist groups, knowns as Mujahideen had surrendered their weapons and crossed over since 2019. Some of these Mujahideen have committed atrocities but are unlikely to be prosecuted.
Some of those Mujahideen, like Aliyu, were commanders, known as qaid, in charge of several districts. Importance was attached to the group so much that they were invited to Abuja, where they met representatives of President Buhari.
Aliyu, who is now living free on the government’s payroll and living with his family in Kaduna, was said to be actively involved in the Bama massacre in 2014 that killed hundreds of civilians.
He now works for the SSS to convince other Mujahideen like him to give up the fight and embrace peace. According to the report, Aliyu has personally persuaded more than 20 rijal(s) since he became a beneficiary of the programme two years ago.
Although some security experts have applauded the programme because of the seemingly way it is depleting the membership of the two terrorist organisations, critics have argued such a deal would reward mass killers.
More than 1,000 Boko Haram fighters have surrendered to the army in the last few weeks.
Some communities and traditional leaders in the North-East have protested the potential reintegration of the insurgents into their communities.
Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State and Shehu of Borno, Abubakar El-Kanemi, had raised concerns that the communities where thousands of people were killed by the terrorists and houses destroyed might not be in the right frame of mind to accept the insurgents, who recently sought the forgiveness of Nigerians.- Advertisement –
Correspondent could not get comments from both the military and State Security Service (SSS) as calls put across by this reporter to spokespersons of both agencies, Peter Afunaya of the SSS and Clement Onyeama of the Nigeria Army were not picked. They didn’t react to the text sent to them both as an SMS and on WhatsApp at the time of publication.
Dialogue with terrorists paints FG as weak, incapable –NSA
In March, the Federal Government claimed it was not interested in negotiation with bandits, terrorists and other criminal elements terrorising the country when it was asked to embrace dialogue with members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) agitating for the independent nation of Biafra in the South-East.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno dialogue with insurgents paints the government as weak and incapable, adding that the government won’t hesitate to use maximum force on the insurgents.
“The government is tackling the problem of insecurity, we’ve said this many times that there are two phases in solving this problem –the soft approach: talking, negotiating, and so on and so forth.
“While the government is not averse to talking to these entities, these human beings, I have to be very honest, the government has to apply its weight, that force that is required because you can’t even talk with people who are unreliable, who will turn out to do a different thing and people who will continue to hurt the society.
“So, basically, what the government wants to rely upon is to deal with this issue by using all the assets – military assets, intelligence assets to eliminate these people.
“If along the line, some of them are ready to come out and talk and negotiate, when the time comes, we will do that but for now, we can’t keep on dwelling on Let’s dialogue,” he was quoted as saying by Punch.
Recently, the government had attributed the ongoing gale of surrender by the insurgents to the use of both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches by the military.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed told journalists in Washington DC that the surrendered terrorists were yielding to the leadership and moral support given by President Buhari to the military which had in turn taken the war to the insurgents.