RESIDENTS of Borno State have expressed concern that the recent mass surrendering of former Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province (Iswap) fighters and their integration into the Nigerian military might be a ploy
Since 2009, Boko Haram has been fighting the Nigerian state as it seeks to establish a purist Islamic theocracy across the northeast of the country. Iswap later broke away from Boko Haram and of late, has emerged as the stronger of the two groups but in recent weeks, many of their fighters have been surrendering.
Under the government’s amnesty programme, these so-called repentant terrorists are being rehabilitated, with some of them even incorporated into the Nigerian military. However, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, has expressed concern over this, saying it will be hard for the people of Borno State and the northeast to forgive these terrorists, given the crimes they have committed.
Over the last 12 years, Boko Haram have killed about 30,000 innocent citizens and displaced over 3m people from their homes. However, local residents and security operatives believe that, hunger or a food blockade may not be the only reasons the terrorists are coming out to surrender.
Ibrahim Audi, a local resident of Maiduguri, said: “There must be something to look into regarding the influx of the terrorists, who are coming behind their wives and children as human shields. I am not doubting the capacity of our military but foolishness of our politicians is what matters here because they can put pressure on the military to release terrorists for some political manipulations at the detriment of our people who are craving for food and water.”
Muktar Salim, a staff at one of the higher institutions in Maiduguri, pointed out that over 1,000 Boko Haram terrorists were said to have surrendered to troops. He questioned whether they were sincere or if this was just a plot for them to infiltrate the Nigerian military and attack them from within.
Mr Salim said: “If these terrorists are coming for good, then I will be happy for all of us but if they are coming with a hidden agenda, then I am worried they might be agents coming to prepare how they might take the state from within. The government should, therefore, not be in a hurry to release them into the communities as it may turn out to be a serious disaster.”
Another local resident Mohammed Suleiman, likened the influx of the surrendering terrorists to what is currently happening in Afghanistan. According to him, some Taliban militia fighters came out to renounce terrorism and they were allowed to move freely among the people but suddenly as the Americans pull out of the country, the Afghan government could not stop them.
He added: “It is fearful what is happening today in Afghanistan. I read from reports that terrorists who had earlier surrendered and lived in the cities now being occupied by the Taliban’s are the same people who made ways for the fighters to take these cities like wild fire.
“Nigeria and our military should not allow mistake like this to happen because it will be a disaster more than what we have seen in the past, especially with the knowledge and experience of war that these terrorists are coming with.”