Nigerians have received with mixed reactions the Bill which seeks to rehabilitate "repentant" fighters of Islamist terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, Islamic State in West Africa Province, ISWAP, and others currently waging insurgency wars against the country.
The Bill entitled: "National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation and De-radicalisation of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria" is being sponsored by former Governor of Yobe State, Senator Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe East Senatorial District). It passed the first reading on Thursday, February 20, 2020 at the Senate.
While the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Chibok Community, among others, condemned it, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, welcomed it.
This Bill is obviously a copycat attempt to secure for the insurgents, their sponsors and supporters the same soft landing that the late President Umar Yar'Adua offered former militants in August 2009, which led to the cessation of hostilities in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The Federal Government also packaged a rehabilitation programme which has helped the repentant militants to become useful and peaceful members of society.
Many Nigerians question this package for terrorists who are ideological sworn enemies of the system and the Constitution that bind us together as people of a diverse political entity; criminals who for 11 years have slaughtered thousands of innocent Nigerians, displacing over 2.5 million people in the process.
How do our fighting troops feel when they see those who killed their friends and comrades suddenly become the darlings of the ruling establishment and being pampered with special care which the law-abiding members of society are denied?
How do we even determine that someone who surrendered in battle has "repented"? Shakespeare says in Macbeth: "There is no art to find the mind's construction on the face". Have the Nigerian Army and politicians pushing for this preposterous soft landing for "repented" insurgents discovered this art?
The fear among well-meaning Nigerians is that granting the terrorists this package at this time when the insurgencies and criminalities are gathering more steam is a sign of weakness and surrender by the Nigerian state to the perceived superior firepower of the enemies. It is a cowering gesture.
What stops these terrorists from surrendering, receiving this undue pampering only to re-launch their campaign of tears, sorrow and blood? Are we not merely recycling these terrorists, thus ensuring that the war will never end?
We believe it is too early and foolish to offer the terrorists an olive branch they have not asked for or deserve. It is only when they are defeated that we can offer some amnesty and rehab to those who deserve it. Those who must pay for their evils against the nation must be made to pay.
The Bill must be stepped down.