In recent times, the Nigerian cyberspace has been rife with arguments for and against the alleged leniency with which the Nigerian government have chosen to deal with the Boko-Haram terrorists especially given the recent behaviour of this group, from the killing of the CAN chairman in Adamawa, to the alleged impregnation of Miss Leah Sharibu to the killing of the seminarian etc. It has been a hot argument which has pervaded both the cyberspace and even one on one discussion.
The challenge remains that the Nigerian government, as always, have failed to furnish the citizenry with the necessary information even if the citizens won’t accept same explanations. It is the right of the citizens to know what and why government takes any decision that concerns them especially one as sensitive as security and involving a very dicy situation like this Boko-Haram activities and issues concerning them.
Fair enough though, there is a valid explanation for the decision of the Nigerian government to use the DDR- disarmament-demobilization-reintegration- approach even though some have claimed that same has failed before (the amnesty program for Niger Delta Militants). The criminal justice system upholds the value of rehabilitation and reintegration as part of the justice system, also the UN has rated DDR as part of the effective ways of achieving peace and development in conflict areas.
It is important to note too, that the government have claimed that this DDR approach is not necessarily for high level Boko-Haram members but mostly for low-level Boko-Haram members whom have been radicalised via forceful means, this means that the ones being rehabilitated are those who never joined the terrorists of their own volition, and those who willingly surrender their arms. The truth is that given the effects of Boko-Haram in the North, there are a lot of homeless and hopeless youths who are being kidnapped and forcefully made two join the terrorists in their acts and these people do really deserve the leniency which they are supposedly being dealt.
DDR according to the UN “is the process of removing weapons from the hands of members of armed groups, taking the combatants out of their groups and helping them reintegrate as civilians into the society, DDR seeks to support ex-combatants and those associated with armed groups, so they can become active participants in the peace process.” With this explanation, it makes it obvious what the plans of the Nigerian government supposedly is but then, how feasible is this? Is Nigeria ready and equipped for this approach? I dare say NO! Good intention can never make up for quackery or ill-equipment.
The UN prioritised three types of activities to be undertaken before, during and after the DDR process. They are;
- Mediation support: this involves the deployment of experts, drafting provisions of agreement and negotiation advice.
- Analysis: this includes mapping of armed groups and identification of entry points for programmatic engagement.
- Capacity building: this entails strengthenin the parties’ ability to work constructively towards an agreement.
Based on these three activities, it is a no-brainer on why I think that Nigeria can not manage this approach that they have chosen. Historical precedence have shown their lack of expertise in all ramifications. The need for experts and involvement of same in the drafting of agreements and negotiation advice is one never undertaken by the Nigerian government even during the amnesty programme. Never have the Nigerian government prioritised the role of Psychologist and mental health experts when it comes to decision such as this and currently, no mention of same have been made as regards the Boko-Haram terrorists, the Nigerian way of handling issues like this is to throw a lot of money at it and hope it goes away even though same money are mostly siphoned by the people at the top. It is common knowledge that for a group of people who have been radicalised, it is paramount that trained psychologists be a huge part of the rehabilitation process because their mental rehabilitation is key and also a very important way to monitor the rehabilitation process before reintegration but I worry that same is not made available and even if it were made available, definitely not enough to handle this task. To rehabilitate is not the Nigerian way of beating out confessions from alleged criminals, it goes beyond that and this is worrisome if trained psychologists are not being used, then how are they being rehabilitated? How are we certain that they are being rehabilitated?
Analysis and Identification is also quite important but then how do they do this? The armed forces are already ill-equipped to do their work not to talk of the equipments and expertise needed to be able to note/identify the willing terrorists that would be rehabilitated. So we run the risk of having these terrorists infiltrate the army (because the army bases are where they are supposedly undergoing the rehabilitation process) and causing more harm. Not being able to know which one is a forcefully indoctrinated terrorist or which is a spy is a risk we must be prepared for.
Then again, how do we ensure that the parties involved (but especially, the rehabilitated terrorists) are able to keep to this agreement? The pitiful state of IDP- internally displaced persons- camps point to the inability of the government to provide basic amenities to primary victims of terrorism, how much so the secondary victims of this terrorism? How do we ensure that they do not pick up their arms again? How do we prepare them for life beyond carrying arms so they do not turn out like some militants who have taken up their arms again because of lack of proper planning? Nigeria as we know is not capable of ensuring accountability from the people in charge, it will not be surprising if this approach is even a cash mill for a select group of people so the citizens lose on two grounds – no justice for crimes committed against them and embezzlement of taxpayers money.
Public perception is also very important in all this, the hoarding or outright refusal to give out information is very problematic. The people are left to speculate and make assumptions which run very wild. The one which is absolutely worrisome is the idea that after the rehabilitation process, these ex terrorists will be reintegrated into the ARMY? Given the plethora of reasons stated, this is a very wild decision if true. First is, how and why will the army accept them? The army is like a family, how do you make them accept persons they look upon as killers of their brothers/sisters as part of them? How do you ensure that this doesn’t cause a problem within the ranks? Secondly, given that the human mind is quite deep and devious, is that a risk we are willing to run? Isn’t this a possibility of having the security forces infiltrated by the boko-haram terrorists? And given the animosity they might face from the already existing members of the army, won’t it be a temptation on their part to hit back at the slightest perceived provocation?
As earlier stated, I do not think Nigeria is ready or equipped for this approach even though it is a welcome development. I am of the opinion that if the government must take this approach, they should actually do it the right way as it is a very risky approach that will hurt us badly if not undertaken properly, else it’d just be putting sticky bandage on a cancerous wound.