Chief of the Defense Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, says 613 rehabilitated low-risk repentant terrorists will be handed over to their state governments for reintegration into society.
Irabor made the revelation during the fifth Stakeholders’ Meeting of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), Thursday in Abuja.
Represented by the Chief of Defense Training and Operations, Maj.-Gen. Adeyemi Yekini, the CDS said that the 613 clients are currently undergoing de-radicalization and rehabilitation being treated by the OPSC.
He said the meeting would discuss the Deradicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) program in detail before the rehabilitated clients are handed over to their state governments.
Irabor said the OPSC was established by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2015 as a window for willing and remorseful terrorists to lay down their arms and undergo a structured DRR program.
He added that the scheme was a multi-agency humanitarian operation drawing on the expertise of more than 17 services, ministries, departments and agencies, supported by local and international organizations and friendly nations.
The CDS said OPSC’s successes had continued to resonate in the region and diaspora, sparking the interest of researchers from far and wide.
“It is also important to mention that upon passing the program, each client will receive some food and personal items, as well as a start-up pack according to the trade learned during the training, to enable them to set up and run small businesses. start a new life.”
Irabor recommended that the governments of the recipient states provide the necessary support to enable the ex-combatants to wade through the transition phase and the most challenging phase of their lives.
“We are optimistic that, by working closely with local and traditional authorities, states can deploy security equipment to effectively identify and evaluate reintegrated ex-combatants.
“I must emphasize that it is critical for all stakeholders involved in the reintegration processes to reduce or completely eliminate recidivism,” he said.
Irabor said the armed forces had significantly downgraded Boko Haram and Islamic State terrorists, confining them to a small portion of the Sambisa forest and isolated islands in Lake Chad.
Consistent and effective air interdictions along with well-coordinated clearing operations on positively identified insurgent strongholds, he said, have continued to inflict heavy casualties on the groups and their leaders.
“These ongoing operations continue to exert pressure and confusion within the ranks of the adversary, leading many to surrender to the armed forces.
“To date, more than 83,000 insurgents and their relatives have surrendered, while the detainees have been tried and sentenced to various prison terms by the courts.
“At the moment, many more captured fighters are being held in different prisons and their trial is ongoing,” Irabor said.
The CDS said the military has applied kinetic and non-kinetic methods to win the war against the insurgents.
“I must emphasize that counterinsurgency operations are dynamic and require a great deal of ingenuity and proactive strategies to achieve success.
“One of the strategies that the federal government has employed is to provide an olive branch to nondescript members of the insurgents who form the critical mass,” he said.
The Coordinator of OPSC, Major General. Joseph Maina said the program has successfully processed 1,573 clients since its inception in 2016, including 1,555 Nigerians and 18 foreign nationals from Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Maina said all foreign clients were transferred to their respective countries for reintegration.
He said the 613 clients were transferred to the DRR camp on September 8, 2022 to begin training, adding that five were foreign nationals from Chad and Niger among them.
The OPSC coordinator announced that 19 of the clients have been transferred to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital Neurological Center for expert psychiatric treatment.
At the meeting, Maina said it was to work out modalities for the smooth handover of the clients to their state and state authorities for reintegration after graduation in February.
“Particularly at the end of this meeting, all stakeholders would be fully aware of the activities of OPSC and the DRR program in particular.
“The government agencies and the MDAs would know in specific terms what role they would play in the transfer and reintegration process of the clients.
“Identify and recommend in specific terms an affordable resettlement package for the clients and assign responsibility to relevant MDAs to provide.
“Determine community sensitization, camp attendance and community service programs to establish and ratify the graduation date and make arrangements for the ceremony,” he said.
Adamawa government secretary Mallam Bashiru Ahmad said the state was working with OPSC to bring clients’ parents together and prepare communities to receive them after de-radicalisation.
He said they attended the stakeholder meeting to see what could be done to ensure the effectiveness of the program and expressed optimism that the effort would produce the desired result.
For her part, Borno Commissioner for Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo, said the state had taken in most of the remorseful terrorists since the start of the program.
Gambo assured that the state would continue to assess clients even after they graduated from OPSC in Gombe to ensure they were ready for reintegration into their communities.
She said the only difference between the Borno model of deradicalization and OPSC was the military involvement, adding that the Borno model was more civilian in scope.
According to her, the remorseful terrorists live with their families in the camps of Borno, while the camp in Gombe only allows family visits.
She called for increased support from the federal government and relevant stakeholders for the state government to achieve its desired goal.
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