We Are Not Recruiting Repentant Boko Haram Members – Gen Irabor

General Lucky Irabor

The story is everywhere that terrorists who dropped their guns and promised to sin no more were finding their ways into the military. However, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Lucky Irabor has debunked that idea.

He spoke at the opening ceremony of the Operation Safe Corridor Stakeholders Meeting to work out modalities for transferring 559 ‘Rehabilitated Clients’ to their state government authorities. Irabor said, “There have been concerns that Operation Safe Corridor graduates are being recruited by the military and Para-military agencies.

“I wish to clearly dispute this assertion and reassure Nigerians that none of the over 1,000 rehabilitated Nigerians from OPSC DRR has been recruited and will never be recruited into the Nigerian Military or sister security services due to stringent safeguards in place to prevent such recruitment.
Major Gen Mutiu Adeyemi Yekini, the Chief of Defence Training and Operations, who represented Irabor went further: “The programme has so far graduated over 1,000 clients including 16 foreign nationals, who have been successfully reintegrated by their national and state governments.

“A total of 559 new clients are currently going through the DRR Program at the DRR Camp in Gombe State.

“Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC) is not a purely military operation, as some have suggested. The OPSC is a peacebuilding effort and its essential duties are carried out by relevant MDAS with the necessary expertise.

“The military and other security and law enforcement agencies are involved to the extent of creating an enabling environment and leadership for the DRR Programme to function efficiently.
“This is yet another session, and my conviction is that all issues related to the effective transfer and eventual reintegration of the 559 clients currently undergoing De-radicalization/Rehabilitation will be addressed.

“You are all aware that the Armed Forces of Nigeria has been involved in this counterinsurgency operation for over a decade and our approaches, practices, procedures, strategies, and tactics have also continued to evolve to effectively tackle the amorphous nature of the threat.

“The initial response was a single service operation that was limited to only the formations and units based in Adamawa, Borno, and the Yobe States.

“However, as time passed, several task forces were formed, eventually leading to the formation of a Theatre Command with several components including a Naval Task Force and an Aviation Task Force to weaken the insurgents.

“In furtherance of this objective, we are committed to forging stronger synergy between the Services and other security agencies.

“All of these efforts have re-energized the fight against the insurgents, and the AFN has continuously made progress towards ending the war in favour of the FGN.

“Before 2015, BHT/ISWAP had presence and control of 27 LGAS in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.

“The group also had the capacity to carry out operations far into Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, and the Federal Capital Territory.

“This is not the case today as their activities have been extensively contained and mostly restrained to a small section of the Sambisa Forest and a few isolated islands on Lake Chad.

“Nevertheless, the insurgents have continued to carry out strikes on isolated civilian targets to abduct and execute innocent citizens perceived to be against their cause.

“They have also recently resorted to attacking commuters along major highways in the Northeast and the destruction of strategic installations like power lines and communication mast.

“However, the Sect has suffered significant casualties in its leadership structures with far-reaching consequences on command, control A and cohesion.

“This is compounded by the relentless air interdictions which have created a sense of uncertainty within the ranks of the BHT/ISWAP thereby compelling the surrendering that has been recorded in the past few months. mass

“Counterinsurgency operations entail a complex mix of activities and approaches to whither down the adversary.

“So as the AFN continue to sustain the pressure on the insurgents through the application of force, other non-kinetic measures are also required to engender the achievement of the desired results.

“One of such ingenious ways is the introduction of OPSC by President, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

“The initiative offers willing and repentant low-profile members of the insurgent groups, who form the critical mass, an opportunity to lay down their arms and take advantage of the De-radicalization Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programme (DRR) of the Federal Government.

“The Scheme is multi-agency in nature with over 17 Services, Ministries, Departments and Agencies taking part.

“Also taking part are local and international organisations as well as interested friendly nations who provide technical and material support as necessary.

“OPSC activities are guided by extant provisions of international humanitarian and human rights laws as well as the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

“I am particularly enthralled to note that OPSC has continued to improve its programs principles, practices and procedures over the years. Today, this initiative has become a model that has been replicated in all the Lake Chad Basin Countries. It has also elicited the interest of both local and international bodies including academia.

“The DRR Program consists of psychological humanitarian treatments that reassure and provide alternatives to low-profile combatants through psycho-social/psycho-spiritual therapies, recreations, vocational training, and introductory western education, thereby countering BHT/ISWAP ideologies and reducing their recruitment drive while depleting the critical mass of their fighting force.

Also, Brigadier Gen Joseph Maina, Coordinator of the Operation Safe Corridor, said the OPSC which was established “to encourage willing and repentant Boko Haram members to surrender and go through a well-structured De-radicalization and Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programme, is a multi-agency, multi-national humanitarian scheme backed by extant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as International Humanitarian and Human Right Laws.”

He added that it had continued “to contribute to knowledge in the field of DRR noting that many countries from the Lake Chad Basin Region, Africa and far away Europe have come to understudy our procedures to replicate the same to address similar challenges.”

“Since the commencement of the Programme in 2016, OPSC has admitted over 1,070 clients comprising 1,064 Nigerians and 16 foreign nationals from Cameroon, Chad and Niger. All the foreign clients were transferred to their respective national authorities for reintegration.

“Presently, 559 clients are undergoing the programme in the camp.

“Out of this figure, 2 Clients are Chadian citizens. It is also important to mention that one client was repatriated to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) for expert psychiatric management during the initial documentation stages of the programme.

“Monitoring and evaluation is a critical component of the DRR programme, therefore OPSC in conjunction with its partners conduct Follow-Up activities to assess the performance of the clients in the communities. The reports from these exercises have so far been encouraging.

“Our purpose this morning, in line with the directive of the Chief of Defence Staff/National Chairman of OPSC, is to work out modalities for the smooth transfer of the 559 clients presently in the camp to their national and states authorities for re-integration after graduation in January 2022.

Specifically, at the end of the meeting, it is expected that we would have achieved the following milestones:

a. All stakeholders would be fully abreast with the activities of OPSC and the DRR Programme in particular.

b. The State authorities and the MDAs would know in specific terms the roles they would play in the transfer and re-integration process of the clients.

c. Identify and recommend in specific terms an affordable Resettlement Package for the clients and assign responsibility to relevant MDAs to provide.

d. Determine the mode community sensitization, camp visitation and community service programmes would take.

e. Ratify the Graduation Date and initiate arrangements for the ceremony.

Present at the meeting were representative of Switzerland Ambassador to Nigeria, Reps of the Governors of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Plateau, Sokoto, Yobe and the Zamfara States,

Rep of the National Security Adviser snd Reps of Heads of Intelligence and Security Agencies among others