Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State on Tuesday reviewed the activities of Boko Haram insurgency in the state, saying the state government is profiling a total of 2,600 terrorists, who recently surrendered.
Zulum also disclosed that the whereabouts of 10 per cent of the state’s population could not be accounted for due to the activities of the insurgents. He put the casualty figure from terrorist attacks in the last 12 years at 100,000.
The governor, who spoke with reporters after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, said he came to brief the president on the latest security situation, especially the surrender by thousands of insurgents in his state.
According to him, a total of 2,600 insurgents, including women and children, have surrendered and are being profiled in collaboration with the Nigerian Army and Department of State Services (DSS) to determine their culpability in insurgent attacks in the state.
The governor explained that not all those who had laid down their arms were criminals. He said some of them were forced to become insurgents against their wish.
Zulum stated regarding the surrendered Boko Haram terrorists, “Right now, we have about 2,600 in our custody. But mind you, this number is inclusive of their children and their wives, including their families. Among these people that have surrendered, some are innocent. We started profiling them with the Nigerian Army and the DSS so that those that have not committed a heinous crime, especially the teenagers, the women that haven’t done anything, we can find an immediate way of resetting them.
“Those that were deeply involved also, we shall look into the possibility of training them so that at a later stage, the federal government and the state government will decide to keep them to address the issue holistically.
“Mind you, among those that have surrendered, some are innocent, that were forcefully conscripted into this programme. Some are teenagers, below the ages of 11, 12, who can handle AK-47 and there’s one very important thing that Nigerians need to understand; if this issue of Boko Haram insurgency is not resolved, I believe it will never end because it is a generation.
“Those that came out from the bush, you can see one person has two wives, three wives in the bush, he’s having 10 children. These children are well trained to behave in such manner. What is this manner? Carrying AK-47, and it’s a generation.”
While expressing support for those bandits surrendering, he, however, assured that relevant laws would be used to address the matter
The governor said, “I’m in total support of this on-going surrender by the insurgents, we support them and those that have surrendered shall be dealt with according to the extant rules and regulations.
“We have international conventions that stipulate how we can handle them. There is no law that clearly stipulates that they should be killed, but we have to be very careful in managing this crisis.”
The governor stressed that Buhari had given assurance that the federal government would be involved in profiling the repentant bandits while also seeking the support of international organisations.
He said, “I think it is the best possible option for us to see that we resolve this issue by involving the federal government because the federal government is a major stakeholder. The president has agreed to provide the leadership.
“We can also involve the international community and other stakeholders; the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs is very key. The Defense Ministry, the army, the police, DSS and others are also very important to develop a framework that will ensure sustainability of this programme.
“Right now, I can’t say anything, but we are on it and after we have concluded the programme, the framework shall be known to each and every person.”
The governor also said, “In the last 12 years, thousands of lives were lost, people have completely lost their means of livelihood. We have over 50,000 orphans and widows. These are official figures; the unofficial figures are more than this.
“We were able to cultivate not more than three per cent of our total arable land because of the insurgency and right now, the whereabouts of not less than 10 per cent of the people of Borno State is not known to all of us.
“I’ve been in this cycle for a long time. I’m the pioneer Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. For the last 11 or 12 years., I was attacked more than 40 to 50 times, I know the magnitude of this problem.”
Zulum added, “We are now in a humanitarian crisis. This will also be another humanitarian crisis and that is why I came to seek the support of Mr. President. Example of a few countries that have gone through protracted internal crisis and have resolved it based on peace-building, include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Colombia, and Rwanda, among others.
“This is also another humanitarian crisis that I think the state government and the federal government have the capacity to contain. Presently, addressing the emerging humanitarian crisis, as it relates to the on-going surrender by the insurgents. We are on top of it.”
Deji Elumoye in Abuja