OrderPaperToday– Federal lawmakers have declared their opposition to the newly introduced bill seeking to establish a national agency for the “education, rehabilitation, de-radicalisation and integration” of repentant insurgents.
A couple of them who registered their disagreement with the proposed law said, while speaking exclusively with OrderPaperNG, that the bill which passed first reading in the Senate on Thursday is unnecessary, ill-conceived and badly timed.
The bill was sponsored by former governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam, who is also the senator representing Yobe East Senatorial District,
The legislative draft has been suffering a backlash since it passed first reading in the Senate and has raised concerns on why the Nigerian government commenced an amnesty programme for repentant insurgents in 2018.
It was reported that 1,400 of repentant insurgents were rehabilitated and released to the society on February 11, 2020.
Speaking on the development, Senator Danjuma Laah (PDP, Kaduna) expressed strong opposition to the bill.
He submitted that a criminal will always remain one and queried why the “repented offenders” were reinstated into the military.
La’ah said, “I am seriously against it because I remember the day that bill was introduced I was not on the floor. I can remember I was the first person that raised the motion when I was talking to the IG (Inspector General of Police) when he came to the floor of the Senate, he was asking about that bill.
“I remember most Boko Haram (members) that were arrested and these ‘suicide bombers’ with all these terrorists, most of them were caught in this act, retreated to IDP, they kept them there, trained them, fed them, overfed them within the shortest time at their disposal, within three months, they called them out of the IDP, they absorbed them into the army. I asked that question, ‘Why should that be possible’?
“Are they saying that those people are better off than the intelligent staff that they have or what did they see or forsee in them that they were absorbing them in all the military operations? He could not answer. The IG told me it is not happening with them but he is sure when such bill comes, he would not allow it to happen in the Nigeria Police.
“That it is only the army, air force or navy that does that but I see no reason why such people should be absorbed into the army system, knowing well that they are offenders and you are looking forward for them to repent. What kind of repent? No matter what, once you are a thief, you are a thief. Anytime anything gets missing in the room or house, they will always suspect you. So I am not just comfortable with that bill.”
On his part, senator representing Ondo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Akinyelure (PDP, Ondo) questioned the rationale behind the bill, saying an “enemy can never be rehabilitated”.
He argued that “Anything Boko Haram will not be a good one. It is as though you want to put fire under your house. In Psychology, the older you get, the more difficult you are to train. It is an in-built trait. These are criminals to who life means nothing. So what type of rehabilitation are we going to give them? Do you even know if they are Nigerians? Most of them are not Nigerians.
“They are from Niger Republic and other neighbouring countries. They just believe that terrorising us and taking our resources are their major concerns. When you now say you want to establish an agency, then you are now harbouring terrorists in your country and giving them recognition, you are keeping them by opening an agency, before you know it, they will resettle round Nigeria and attack and take over. (It) doesn’t make sense.
“The best thing is for them to go back to their countries and if they want to repent, they repent and surrender. That is all. There is no justification for the creation of such an agency. How can an enemy be rehabilitated? These are people who have done Nigeria so much harm – killing people that they cannot create, and you want to establish…so what are we budgetting trillions yearly for our security agencies for?
“Enemy can never be rehabilitated. We have been on this thing since the time of Jonathan. The president said when we vote for them, they will eradicate Boko Haram but Boko Haram has been on the increase since then and this is almost 6 years now. They are not making significant impact.”
Akinyelure advised that the money expected to be used to fund the agency should rather be diverted to address infrastructural decay across the country.
“We have a lot of infrastructural decay all over the country. Our roads are bad. (An) average Nigerian cannot enjoy electricity, water supply both in the city and villages and you want to use the little resources available to rehabilitate your enemies.
“No water supply, no power, no roads. People are being kidnapped and terrorised on daily basis. Farmers go to their farms to farm and at the time of harvesting, they destroy their farms. Nothing is happening. Fund the army, the police and all of them. Give them the right equipment to fight these people,” he added.
Speaking from the outside the National Assembly, former chief whip of the Senate in the 8th assembly, Olusola Adeyeye (Osun, APC) warned that the establishment of the proposed agency would rather create more problems than solutions.
He said, “Quite frankly, I strongly disagree with the need for such an agency. Rather than solve any problem, the metastasis of needless bureaucracy has always created more problems!”
Anither ex-senator, Isah Misau, who represented Bauchi Central Senatorial District in the 8th Senate, equally spoke against the bill.
According to him, it is not a good idea at the moment because there of insufficient data on the insurgents and also a lack of manpower to effectively monitor them after declaring them as rehabilitated.
Misau said, “I do not support it because I do not think it is the right time for us to start those kind of things when we do not have data of the people concerned especially people who have killed, destroyed a lot of things and all of a sudden, you give them amnesty. So after rehabilitation, who is going to monitor them?
“Do we have the manpower to monitor their activities after that because, I think even the sponsor of the bill, I do not know, I do not think he made serious research before bringing that bill.
“There are some senators already who are against the bill. I will also not support it, especially this time when we cannot even monitor a lot of things. We are lacking a lot of things when it comes to intelligence gathering. Even the ordinary and physical things, we cannot contain them. How do you know he has repented?”
He noted that the amnesty programme given to Niger Delta militants is not best for Boko Haram insurgents because the source of their attacks are unfounded.
Misau argued, “The Boko Haram themselves can sponsor some people to pretend they have repented so they can gather more intelligence. You cannot compare it to amnesty given to Niger Delta (militants) because they have people that are known. Everybody know their leaders and the reasons for their agitation.
“But Boko Haram, nobody knows the reason why they are killing people or this is the reason why they are doing what they are doing because you can see there is a lot of difference. You cannot just come and tell me that you are killing people in the name of religion, whereby you are killing both Muslims and Christians, so which means which religion are you talking about?
“I do not support that bill because even if we are going to do anything concerning repentant Boko Haram, it is not where we will put a commission for it, for now. We do not know how tomorrow will be but for now, it is not a good idea.”
Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna), immediate past senator who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the 8th Assembly, said the creation of the agency is not needed and will shortchange the funding to North East Development Commission.
He said, “The situation in the North East has been properly taken care of with the establishment of the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and that commission should be well-funded and well-equipped to tackle all these socio-economic matters that affect the North East.
“We cannot start diverting resources that are supposed to be used to bring an end to the violence and the killings and fund NEDC in the name of setting up an agency. Establishing an agency for repentant Boko Haram members is needless and a complete waste of resources.”
Sani also said the agency will either “become a breeding ground for more terrorists or it is going to be a target of the terrorists.”
“As far as I am concerned, that repentant Boko Haram agency is going to be a factory for producing more suicide bombers and more killers,” he stated, adding, “The point is, there are countries of the world that have de-radicalisation programmes but the situation now is that the country is at war with insurgents. Re-radicalisation can only come after the leadership and the group have been defeated but doing this is putting the cart before the horse.”