Mass surrender of Boko Haram terrorists: We are not taking anything for granted says Theatre Commander
The Theatre Commander, Joint Task Force North East Operation Hadin Kai, Maj Gen Christopher Musa says the Nigerian military is meticulous in handling the droves of Boko Haram fighters who are currently dropping their arms and surrendering to troops.
He reassured those who are raising concerns about what happens to the surrendered fighters that the military is not taking anything for granted as justice will take its course adding that the processes involved in handling the issue are quite open and in line with global best practices and in accordance with law of armed conflict which the Nigerian military is mindful of.
Gen Musa gave the explanation Sunday evening when a team of Nigerian Defence correspondents who were in the North east to see for themselves the true position of things in the war against terror, visited him at the Headquarters, Operation Hadin Kai in Maiduguri.
According to him, those that surrendered to the troops are not just given a pat on the back and ask to go home as some people are erroneously claiming; rather they are all profiled, investigated and sorted out based on the gravity of their offences they have committed. Those with blood on their hands are usually handed over to appropriate authorities for prosecution. The military is not pampering them as some people are insinuating.
He said however that the military is only doing what is expected of a professional force which is to treat a surrendering adversary with a semblance of civility. “When an adversary drops his riffle and surrenders to you, you are expected to treat him if he is nursing an injury, give him food, provide him shelter; we are only doing what we are supposed to do and it is in line with our rules of engagement”.
Gen Musa said the military understood the delicate nature of the issue especially as most people have raised concerns about the need to balance the imperative of accepting the surrendered fighters and the need to assuage the feelings of the traumatized victims of activities of the insurgents.
According to him, it was the need to find a middle point that compelled the military to prevail on the Borno Governor, Prof Umara Zulum to convene stakeholders meeting penultimate week to hold a frank conversation among themselves. According to him, all the stakeholders in the state including the academia, businessmen, victims, medicals, the media, the Ulamas, the imams, members of Christian Association of Nigeria, and so on, were all in attendance at the meeting. It was necessary, according to him, to allow everybody make their contributions and vent their feelings and proffer solutions. “There was need to sit back and reflect on what had happened, address the causative factors and tell ourselves the enduring truth”.
The Theatre Commander said time has come for everybody come on board to finally stamp out terrorism in the region. “Right now, we are a situation where the terrorists have lost ground and desperately looking for anything to hold on to stay alive; we will continue to push until there is final victory”.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, who facilitated the media visit to the operations area, had hinted that the media tour was necessary given the fact that some people do not even believe that the surrendering of Boko Haram fighters was true in the first place and it was important for the media to have a first-hand information about the tremendous successes being recorded in the fight against terror and the efforts being made the Nigerian Army to stamp out terrorism in Nigeria.
According to him, there has been some wrong narratives especially in media domain regarding what happens to the surrendered fighters and also about the victims of the terrorist activities, and therefore, it was necessary for the media to see things themselves.
Brig Gen Nwachukwu stated that the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) fighters are seriously being depleted by the surrendering of their members as well as the conflict between them and as such are embarking on massive recruitment drive. He said it was therefore very important to stop their desperate recruitment and that the media will play important role in that effort. The team is expected to visit a number of operation areas in north east.