The federal government has recorded a big break in the fight against insurgency after some 1,000 battle-fatigued, leaderless and evidently demoralised Boko Haram members and their families surrendered to the Nigerian troops.
Decimated by military's air strikes and artillery bombardment, the months-long operations had culminated in the death of the terrorists' leader, Abubakar Shekau, who passed on after detonating a bomb during a negotiation to surrender by other fighters of the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP), who had surrounded his base in Sambisa Forest in the North-east.
The repentant Boko Haram members, according to a statement by the army, included the chief bomb expert of Boko Haram, known as Musa Adamu a.k.a Mala Musa Abuja, and his second in command, Usman Adamu a.k.a Abu Darda.
However, while the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, has asked other insurgents to abandon their illegitimate cause and also surrender to troops, the development has elicited huge concerns amongst Nigerians following the release of pictures of repentant terrorists being extended kind treatments, including provision of clothes, beverages and drinks by the Nigerian Army.
The Nigerian Army Headquarters had stated that, contrary to online reports, there was no plan to free two Boko Haram commanders arrested recently.
A statement by the army said all the surrendered terrorists would be received, processed and passed on to the relevant agencies of government for further assessment in line with extant provisions.
The statement stated: "Our attention has been drawn to a publication by some online news medium released in which the authors deliberately misrepresented the facts contained in that report and twisted it to suit whatever purpose they seek to achieve.
"While the Nigerian Army (NA) does not want to be distracted from its main focus of dealing decisively with the threats against peace loving Nigerians, it has become necessary to put issues in their right perspectives.
"It is a known fact that in the recent past, over 1,000 members of Boko Haram and their families have surrendered to the troops due to the intense pressure from troops' sustained offensive actions.
"Among those were key leaders of the terrorists group, who have renounced their membership and have turned themselves in," the statement further stated.
It maintained that the army, being a professional military organisation, would continue to act in accordance with the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution, as well as international best practices.
"It must be known that the Nigerian Army will never encourage any act of lawlessness or extra judicial killings. Accordingly, all surrendered terrorists will be received, processed and passed on to the relevant agencies of government for further assessment in line with extant provisions," it said.
The army also noted that, "The ongoing Operation Safe Corridor is an outfit established by the federal government and not the NA. As such, it is wrong to say that the NA will free repentant terrorists.
"The Nigerian Army, therefore, appeals to the public to disregard the deliberate distortion of facts by these online mediums and continue to support it in order to rid the country of terrorism and other forms of insecurity."
Consequently, Yahaya admonished all terrorist groups operating in the country to abandon their illegitimate cause and surrender to troops.
The army chief had, while addressing troops in Maiduguri during the flag-off of a special welfare flight programme for personnel of the joint task force of 'Operation Hadin Kai' urged those yet to surrender to do so. He said those who fail to surrender would be fished out and captured.
"We are getting them in droves surrendering already and we urge them to continue to surrender and lay down their arms and toe the line of peace.
"The other ones in the bush should also come out and surrender so that we'll conclude. If they fail, we will get to them. We have gotten some and will get to all who fail to surrender whether in the north-east, north-west or north-central," he said.
Army's Spokesman, Brigadier-General Onyema Nwachukwu, gave details of the surrender by the insurgents in a statement.
"Following the recent escalation of offensive operations coupled with non-kinetic efforts by troops of operation HADIN KAI (OPHK), which yielded massive surrendering of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province Terrorists in the North East, the Chief Bomb Expert of the terrorist group known as Musa Adamu a.k.a Mala Musa Abuja and his second in command, Usman Adamu a.k.a Abu Darda along with their families and followers have also finally surrendered to the troops of operation HADIN KAI in Bama Local Government Area of Borno State.
"The acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division and Commander Sector 1 OPHK Brigadier General Abdulwahab Adelokun Eyitayo was at Headquarters 21 Special Armoured Brigade Bama on Saturday, 7 August 2021, to receive the set of the surrendered Boko Haram terrorists and their families.
"During the visit, the GOC said their decision to drop their arms and come out is highly commendable, adding that they should also try and talk to their brothers and colleagues in the forest to come out and embrace the new life of peace and rehabilitation," he explained.
Eyitayo, who spoke through an interpreter, further disclosed that they would undergo some rehabilitation process at a government facility before reintegration into the larger society.
His words: "While distributing new clothes and assorted food items, groceries and toiletries to the surrendered terrorists and their families totaling 335 fighters, 746 adult women and children including one of the abducted Chibok girls, it was observed that the reasons for such massive turnout was basically due to the intensified Nigerian military campaign on their enclaves and environs and also with the overwhelming famine, discontent, internal skirmishes, health challenges as well as untold hardship.
"The Nigerian military has resolved to intensify its both kinetic and non-kinetic approach towards the ongoing fight against insurgency in order to leverage on the knowledge of Musa Adamu and Usman Adamu and also with the current wave of turnout by terrorists to enable her achieve both short and long term counter-insurgency gains in the North East," it said.
Unfortunately, the development has triggered arguments by those, who thought the insurgents should instead be punished for waging war against the state and killing thousands of innocent Nigerians.
In the pictures, which had gone viral on the social media, the insurgents were surrounded with provisions and clothes while displaying placards with the inscription "Nigerians, please forgive us, Borno State remains the home of peace, forget terrorism, embrace peace," among others.
Mrs. Oluwaseun Sakaba, whose husband, Lt. Col I. Sakaba, was killed by Boko Haram in 2018, berated the army after it shared photos of repentant sect members with placards seeking forgiveness from Nigerians.
Sakaba was one of the 44 soldiers killed by the insurgents during an attack on 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State in November 2018.
She, however, wrote on her Instagram page: "It will not be well with you (terrorists). I should forgive you for making me a widow. I should forgive you for making my children fatherless. I should forgive them for making many women and children widows and fatherless."
A former presidential aide, Mr. Reno Omokri, also condemned the release of the photographs, saying: "The administration shared photos of so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists and asked Nigerians to forgive them.
"Does it make sense to ask Nigerians to forgive people, who have killed innocent Nigerians, when the Buhari government wants to prosecute Sunday Igboho for protecting the same innocent Nigerians?" he queried.