Moments after the Federal government reportedly released 1,400 ”repentant” Boko Haram suspects recently under the Operation Safe Corridor programme, Nigerian soldiers serving in the North East have kicked against the move.
Launched in 2016, Operation Safe Corridor is an initiative of the military for the deradicalisation and rehabilitation of all ex-Boko Haram members.
The Federal government reportedly released the rehabilitated sect members in Borno state and this was confirmed by Babakura Jato, the commissioner of Information in Borno state. Jato in a chat with newsmen, said those rehabiliated suspects were released after it was discovered that they were neither members of the sect or were discovered to be children of Boko Haram members.
Reacting to the development, soldiers, who confirmed the release of the suspects to TheCable, said they did not understand why suspected Boko Haram members who were capturing and killing soldiers, are being released in large numbers.
“A lot of soldiers are not happy about this. We were there at the Maimalari barracks when some of these Boko Haram people were released.
The authorities are releasing them, but Boko Haram are killing soldiers that they capture. This does not make sense to us at all. We continue to sweep across the bushes to flush these people out, and then the government will release them. Does that not amount to wasted efforts?” a soldier said
Another soldier said he believes most of the released suspects find their way back to crime.
“You wonder why Boko Haram members are on the increase? When we arrest them and bring them here, some top people would come and start negotiating their release. But, I will tell you some of these so-called suspects are returning to the bush and they were never repentant.” the soldier told TheCable
Commenting on the release and the reaction of the soldiers, Onyema Nwachukwu, spokesperson of the defence headquarters, said the releases were in line with Operation Safe Corridor.
“We’ve made some releases, that’s the truth. We should know what the operation is about. But take note, it’s not that we capture Boko Haram suspects and then go back and release them. No.” he said.
He added that the rehabilitation programme is under the direct supervision of the defence headquarters and managed in conjunction with 13 civil organisations.
“The civil organisations involved in the operation include UNICEF, International Office on Migration (IOM) and relevant government ministries and security agencies. Not left out of the oversight structure of the operation is the Gombe state govt where the DRR facility is located. As a testimony to the effectiveness of the Safe Corridor initiative, so far, about 800 ex Boko Haram fighters who would have unleashed unimaginable terror on citizens have been admitted and out of which 287 of them have been successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated into society, with many still undergoing the DRR programme” he said.