By Yakubu Uba
Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno and some stakeholders in the state have expressed satisfaction with the growing number of insurgents laying down arms and surrendering to the military.
They expressed optimism over the development and urged maximum utilisation of the opportunity by the authorities and citizens for the desired lasting peace in the frontline state, which has experienced mayhem over the last 12 years.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the insecurity led to lost of several lives and properties as well as displacement of millions of victims.
Zulum in a broadcast described the development as an opportunity that should be harnessed, adding that it is part of “sulhu (reconciliation) programme” organised with the support of security agencies to help those willing to surrender to do so.
“I think this is an opportunity for us to harness. There is need for all and sundry to give support to this initiative,” he said.
Zulum lauded the military and other security agencies for the professionalism so far shown that has continued to facilitate the programme.
The governor noted that the people of Borno have two choices to make; either to accept the repentant insurgents or reject them and create a situation where they could join another terrorist group and continue to fight.
“On my way travelling to Gwoza and Bama, I saw many people cultivating their farmlands by the roadside and this is an indication of emerging peace, which we have to sustain in order to salvage our people.
“However, like I said, we must come together to carefully analyse the two extremes and come up with a workable framework,” Zulum said.
The governor said that he would engage high level consultations with the Presidency, service chiefs, residents, security heads, traditional rulers, victims of the insurgents, elders and religious leaders, among others, on the best way forward.
In his reaction, the Chairman of Borno Concern Citizens Forum, Alhaji Hassan Zanna, described the development as a big relief to the people of Borno.
Zanna however called for proper documentation of the those that surrendered and the need to check their physical and mental status while they undergo deradicalisation and other procedures necessary for reintegration of those qualified into the society.
He explained that the development was reducing tension in the state and facilitating the expansion of farming activities in areas hitherto known as no go areas.
“Last year by now we have cases of farmers being killed in their farms by insurgents, but now that is history.
“We need to thank God for this development as we look foward to bumper harvest,” Zanna said.
On his part, the Director of National Orientation Agency (NOA) in the state, Alhaji Shettima Ja’afar, called for support of the initiative to succeed.
Ja’afar said most of those surrendering between the age of 35 and below were too young 12 years ago when they were misled or compelled to join the insurgency.
While urging the public to accept them when fully deradicalised, Ja’afar said that NOA has started training its personnel on reaching out to the public on the need to accept repentant insurgents that have been deradicalised.
“It is one of our task to go out and sensitise the people on such issues,” Ja’afar said.
Mr Moses Yakubu, a civil servant, who also expressed joy over the development, said critics who kept insisting that the military should ignore the surrender and crush the insurgents needed to know that there is a limit to military action in bringing lasting peace.
“If someone you want to smoke out for the past 12 years with assorted firepower associated with collateral damage is now coming out without a shot to surrender, what else do we want? Definitely not another years of fighting.
“We need to be optimistic as our leaders are trying. God has provided a golden opportunity for us with a hard working governor and now a leeway for lasting peace that should be exploited fully for the state to achieve its maximum potential,” Yakibu said.
Malam Abubakar Ibrahim, whose business activities in Maiduguri and Banki towns were crippled by the insurgency, said the development was the sweetest news he ever heard since the crisis started.
“God has answered our prayers for the return of peace in Borno after series of fasting by both Muslims and Christians; you remember how frequent Gov. Zulum used to mobilise for such prayers.
“We have every reason to rejoice and thank God today if you look at what is happening in Afghanistan.
“Some months ago when the insurgents fire mortar bombs into Maiduguri from outside the city, many have been living in tension of possible overrunning of the city by them.
“We say thank you to President Buhari, Governor Zulum, the Military and other security agencies as well as all those involved in this development.
“Though I am now down economically, I have faith that when things normalise and I have the opportunity to freely travel on business trips from Maiduguri to Banki as I used to do, I will bounce back by the grace of God,” Ibrahim said.
He however urged government at all levels to provide access to credit facilities to those affected by the insurgency to enable them revive their businesses.
Some internally displaced persons who also spoke expressed joy that they would soon return to their ancestral homes to live a more dignified life.
“For the first time I believed the insurgents are sincere in the way they are surrendering with their families and weapons.
“When you see a man (insurgent), his wife and his children moving out of their comfort zone the way we (IDPs) had moved out of our home to this camp, you really know that he has seen hell and can bear no more.
“It is totally wrong we are hearing some reports that IDPs are not happy that the military are accepting the surrender of insurgents instead of killing them.
“Any IDP that said he is not happy must be a lazy person with no future that wants to continue living in camp surviving on and breeding children on ration that has continued to dwindle and increasing his poverty.
“With the desired peace we shall gladly go home. Already residents of two camps had left and are doing better outside the camps,” Malam Musa Modu, an IDP at Muna Camp of Maiduguri, said.