The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, has dismissed reports that repentant and rehabilitated Boko Haram members were being recruited into the Nigerian military.
Olonisakin, who was represented by Chief of Defence Policy and Plans, AVM Nurudeen Balogun, stated this at a stakeholders’ Meeting of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC) on Thursday in Abuja.
The meeting was convened by the Defence Headquarters to work out modalities for the transfer of rehabilitated ex-Boko Haram terrorists to their national and state governments.
He said there have also been fears that products of OPSC are being recruited into the military and paramilitary organisations.
“I wish to categorically refute the claim and assure Nigerians that none of the rehabilitated Nigerians from OPSC Deradicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration has been recruited into the Nigerian Military or any sister security agencies.
“Stringent measures have been put in place to prevent such from happening.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria and indeed the armed forces as well as the Security agencies are committed to ending the insurgency in the North East and other forms of criminalities bedeviling the nation,” he said.
Olonisakin said that the military had made progress in the fight against insurgency.
He added that activities of Boko Haram/Islamic State of West African Province terrorists had been greatly restricted to a small portion of Sambisa forest and isolated islands on the Lake Chad.
According to him, the sect carry out occasional attacks on soft military and civil targets, and very lately, disruption of movement on major highways in the North East to create apprehension and insecurity.
“However, through consistent and effective air interdiction and regular clearance operations on identified strongholds of the insurgents, the Sect has suffered heavy casualties in its leadership cadre causing confusion in their ranks.
“As at today, over 1,000 high profile Boko Haram Terrorists/Islamic State of West African Province members have been captured/arrested and investigated, out of which over 500 have been convicted by courts of competent jurisdiction.
“Generally, counterinsurgency operations are dynamic and requires ingenuity to achieve desired results.
“Consequently, President Muhammadu Buhari in using the multi-dimensional approach to addressing the insurgency, extended an olive branch to willing and repentant low-profile Boko Haram Terrorists/Islamic State of West African Province members.
“Mr President therefore directed the establishment of OPERATION SAFE CORRIDOR to create opportunities for them to lay down their arms and undergo a structured De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programme.
The Scheme is multi-agency in nature with over 450 staff drawn from 17 Services, Ministries, Departments and Agencies with the support of local and international partners as well as friendly nations.
“OPSC activities are guided by extant provisions of international humanitarian and human right laws as well as the Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria,” he said.
The CDS disclosed that over 2,000 low profile Boko Haram/ISWAP members had laid down their arms out of which about 1,000 have been processed by OPSC.
He added that over 250 members including two foreign nationals had been successfully reintegrated by their national and state governments.
According to him, the remaining 692 clients are currently undergoing the DRR programme at the camp in Gombe and Bulumkutu Rehabilitation Centre in Maiduguri.
“It is expected that more clients will be absorbed into the programme this year,” he said.
Earlier, the Coordinator of OPSC, Maj.-Gen. Bamidele Shafa, said that programme had become a global model for other countries to emulate in recent time, adding that it has continued to contribute to knowledge in the field of DRR.
Shafa said that many countries from Lake Chad Basin Region, Africa and far away Europe had come to understudy OPSC procedures in order to replicate same to address similar situation.
He said that a delegations from Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic were in Nigeria in 2019 to understudy OPSC, adding that Somali delegation was being expected in the coming week.
According to him, researchers from renowned Academic institutions from within and outside Nigeria have also come to understudy the programme.
“Since the commencement of the programme, OPSC has admitted 893 clients including 874 adults and 19 minors for the DRR Programme in Gombe out of which 280 including 2 Chadians have so far been transferred to their respective national and state authorities.
“Presently, there are 606 clients undergoing the programme in the camp.
“Also, 86 minors passed through UNICEF Child Care Programme at the Bulumkutu Rehabilitation Centre in Maiduguri in conjunction with Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
“The parents of these clients have been traced and they are being reintegrated through their LGA authorities,” he said.
Shafa said that the result of the follow up exercise carried out on the reintegrated clients was encouraging.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting had in attendance the Head of EU Delegation to Nigeria and Switzerland Ambassador to Nigeria and representatives of the governors of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and Jigawa states.