The Nigerian Army says some 613 repentant terrorists undergoing a programme of deradicalisation in Gombe State, would be reintegrated into the society by February.
According to the force, the repentant insurgents, who were expected to be released to various countries and states were to be provided with starter kits to start small businesses and enable them start a new life.
Critics had viewed the impact of the activities of the insurgents, who were described as “low profile” by military authorities as given expression in the over seven million displaced persons and thousands of deaths of civilians and military personnel over the years and the psychological effect on the actual victims of the insurgency.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a stakeholders’ meeting to work out modalities for the transfer of repentant terrorists to state governments, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor, said combined air strikes and artillery bombardments, had degraded terror groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP), forcing mass surrender of 80,000 insurgents and their families and restricting remnants to a small part of Sambisa Forest.
Irabor, who was represented by the Chief of Defence Training and Operation, Maj Gen MA Yekini, said, “This meeting is part of the activities geared towards the successful transfer of rehabilitated clients to their state government authorities for reintegration. Far reaching decisions are usually taken at these sessions and I have been particularly impressed with the manner at which the outcomes had been implemented.
“This is yet another session, and my expectation is that all issues that would lead to the successful transfer and eventual reintegration of the 613 clients currently undergoing the De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) Programme would be exhaustively discussed.
“It is important to remind us all that the Armed Forces of Nigeria have been involved in dealing with the menace of insurgency for over 12 years now.
“Currently, BHT/ISWAP have been significantly degraded and their activities are restricted to a small portion of Sambisa Forest and isolated islands on the Lake Chad from where the sects carry out occasional attacks on soft military and civilian targets.
“Through consistent and effective air interdictions along with well- coordinated clearance operations on positively identified strongholds of the insurgents, troops have continued to inflict heavy casualties on the groups and their leadership cadre. These sustained operations continue to put pressure and confusion within the ranks of the adversary causing many to surrender to the AFN.
“As at today, over 80,000 insurgents and their family members have surrendered while those captured have been tried and convicted to various jail terms by the law courts. As we speak, many more captured combatants are being held in several correctional facilities and their trial is ongoing.”
Irabor said Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC) was established by government to create opportunities for willing and repentant terrorists to lay down their arms and undergo a structured DRR Programme.
He said, “The scheme is a multi-agency and humanitarian operation, which draws from the expertise of over 17 services, ministries, departments and agencies with the support of local and international organisations as well as interested friendly nations.
“I can only describe this whole of government approach and the huge synergy existing among all players in OPSC as awesome. Therefore, it is gratifying to inform this gathering that the successes of OPSC continues to resonate within the region and in the diaspora, thereby attracting the interest of researchers from far and wide.
“I must emphasise that it is critical for all stakeholders involved in the reintegration processes in order to mitigate, or completely eliminate incidences of recidivism.”
Earlier, Coordinator of the OPSC, Maj Gen JY Maina, listed the state governments involved to include Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.
Reiterating that the operation consisted of personnel drawn from 17 services, ministries, departments and agencies, he noted further that since the commencement of the Programme in 2016, OPSC had successfully processed 1,573 clients comprising 1,555 Nigerians and 18 foreign nationals from Cameroon, Chad and Niger