Commandant of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC) Camp in Mallam Sidi, Gombe State, Colonel Beyidi Martins, has said that 150 de-radicalized ex-Boko Haram members, cannot be discharged now because of the resurgent attacks in the North East. Equally, affected State Governments and other stakeholders are addressing inherent bureaucratic issues, reports AHMED DAN-MONGNO, Maiduguri
A De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Re-integration (DRR) programme was the outcome of a National Security Council meeting of September 2015, conceived to facilitate safe passage of willing insurgents. Over 2,000 have surrendered just as 200 were recorded in Borno State last week.
Col. Martins said 260 have been treated comprising the pilot set of six associated and long detained persons. Another batch of 95 graduated in February 2018 and handed over to their states-Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno and Yobe, are fully re-integrated and gainfully re-settled.
The last set comprising 150 repentant insurgents graduated on November 24, 2018 are still in the camp due to recent attacks but will be released to their states who have expressed willingness to accept and re-integrate them as the situation improves.
OPSC is a joint multi-national humanitarian operation in line with International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws and the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, conceived as a soft strategy to break the ranks and fighting will of Boko Haram.
A high-powered OPSC Committee at the national level has the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin as Chairman with Governors Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Inspector General of Police, a Director from Office of the National Security Adviser, Director General State Security Service, Chief of Defence Intelligence and the Director General National Emergency Management Agency, as members.
Colonel Martins lauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision, General Olonisakin’s doggedness and the phenomenal leadership of Major Gen BM Shafa, the programme’s pioneer Coordinator.
Col. Martins disclosed that those that had been released are within watching distance, saying that necessary monitoring, tracking and tracing are ongoing involving over 375 staff drafted into OPSC from 13 major Federal Government’s agencies including the Office of the National Security Adviser, Nigeria Prisons Service, National Identity Management Commission, Armed Forces of Nigeria, Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services, Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Others are the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, National Emergency Management Agency, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, National Orientation Agency, National Directorate of Employment and National Youth Service Corps.
He stated this against increasing public interest in the activities of OPSC following unsubstantiated allegations of espionage in some quarters linking the resurgent Boko Haram attacks in Borno State to some of the released ex-members.
Reacting, he deplored the development, saying that those making the allegations lacked sufficient information about OPSC. He spoke to reporters while departing for the Kofi Anan International Peace-keeping Training Institute, Accra Ghana.
He categorically ruled out possible contact between Boko Haram and the repentant ex-members, arguing that they displayed satisfactory conduct in the Camp while undergoing series of strict procedures for 52 weeks.
‘’The clients-as we call them- are now better informed and transformed spiritually, socially and psychologically about their new roles in the society. They showed serious remorse for where they found themselves. Profiling them, we discovered that this particular set did not willingly join Boko Haram but were serially subjected to intimidation, coercion and drugging. They got to know about OPSC so they willingly escaped from the bush crossed to our forces as an opportunity to be reformed and re-join the country.
‘’Over 90 per cent of them got to camp virtually empty except the hope and lifeline which the programme offered and they are very enthusiastic about it. They graduated with vocational skills in shoe making and leather works, farming, poultry, welding, tailoring, soap making and cosmetology, barbing, furniture and other skills being expanded for new intakes. I doubt if they can be spies for Boko Haram’’, said Colonel Martins.
He maintained that after swearing to oath of allegiance before a Sharia/High Court Judge to be law abiding as part of the tracking measures, they cannot work for Boko Haram.
Besides, they have undertaken advanced models of profiling by the International Organization for Migrations (IOM), a reputable United Nations agency that sources support services from USAID, DFID, France and Netherlands, etc including starter packs and take-off grants. They are enrolled in NDE Skills Acquisition Centres in their respective states to continue the training.
He noted while they were transferred to their respective states and communities, security agencies use cutting-edge technology to track, monitor and trace them with their DNA samples already deposited at the DNA Laboratory of the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.
‘’They are registered on the National Identity Card System and issued National Identity cards with special code upon discharge after undergoing detailed debriefing by the Camp Intelligence Cell to elicit information to aid their integration process and other future security purposes’’, he explained.
He described OPSC as Nigeria’s most unique and viable non-military counter-terrorism offensive rated in Africa as an eloquent testament of its total commitment to global peace, order and security.
Weighing in, Maj Gen. Shafa said: ‘’Global events have proved that wars are never always won on the battle field. The efficacy of strategies to break the enemy’s fighting will is important. Your whole weaponry may not dislodge the enemy that has the will to fight. You have to break the will. This is where the Federal Government is winning terrorism with Operation Safe Corridor’’.