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Presidency orders north-east to accept reformed Boko Haram fighters

Community leaders in areas affected by insurgency have been directed to work with relevant agencies to end rejection of rehabilitated Boko Haram fighters.

Earlier, some residents of Borno state kicked against the reintegration of repentant Boko Haram members into the communities.

But in a statement on Wednesday Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, asked the people to receive former members of the sect if they do not want them to take up arms again.

More than 600 insurgents were said to have recently completed a de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration (DRR) programme, but residents of Borno had rejected the plan to reintegrate them into society.

However, according to the presidential spokesman, the programme does not cover hardened insurgents, and community leaders must work towards accepting the former Boko Haram fighters, or risk them taking up arms again.

“This programme does not have a place for hard boiled, ideologically hardened terrorists.

It only admits, after careful scrutiny, repentant fighters that were captured and forced to bear arms in the first instance, and there are many who have been drafted by force,” Shehu said.

“At the point of their graduation, a determination is made that the former combatants have repented and are better citizens, imbued with genuine nationalism. They must no longer represent a danger to society or to themselves.

“Where they are certified as such, communities have the duty of accepting them. Unless they want them to take up arms and resume terrorism from which they have repented, community leaders must work with the relevant agencies to end their rejection.

“The Buhari administration is a responsible one and is conscious of its duty to the state and society, and to the victims of terror as well as to those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people.”

He also denied reports that some of the repented insurgents were drafted to serve in the army.

“It is important for the public to know that nobody has ever been absorbed into the military from the de-radicalized Boko Haram and there is no such plan for their absorption,” he said.

“None of the 601 former Boko Haram members who voluntarily laid down their arms, and have recently graduated from the Federal Government’s de-radicalization and rehabilitation programme, is going into the military.

“This is the fourth such graduation of repentant Boko Haram fighters and not one of such graduates has been absorbed into the military.

“The public needs to be reassured that the de-radicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists of the Buhari administration code named “Operation Safe Corridor,” follows an established example from countries with similar experiences, and is supported academically and materially by the European Union and the United Nations.

“The lead agency for the implementation of the programme in Gombe is the International Organization for Migration, a leading inter-government organization which is represented in Nigeria.”

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