Nigeria: Are Surrendering Boko Haram Insurgents Prisoners of War and Entitled to Rehabilitation? (II)

28 September 2021


Last week, we commenced this vexed issue wherein we defined who Prisoners of war are? And what International Humanitarian law and Armed Conflicts law say about the rehabilitation of surrendered parties? Today, we shall continue and conclude our above discourse. Please, read on.

Prosecution of Surrendered Terrorists

As enshrined in Sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Geneva Convention 2004, a protected prisoner of war and a protected internee can be prosecuted. This is in consonance with Article 3 of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of Prisoners of War, 1949, which provides that:

"... in the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall not subject persons that are not taking part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, to... the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgement pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognised as indispensable by civilised people".

Thus, under International law, subjecting these prisoners of war to trial in a court properly constituted, is the right course to take.

At this stage, it is pertinent to state that, pursuant to the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of Prisoners of War and Hague Regulations cited above, those members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect who have suspiciously laid down their arms by "surrendering" to the Federal Government of Nigeria, may perhaps be classified as prisoners of war. Their weird ideology and atrocious acts against constituted authority and the unconscionable crimes they committed or abetted in Nigeria, will however, serve as strong evidence against their not being genuine prisoners of war in the true context of the Geneva Convention. But, however, having "surrendered" to the Federal Government of Nigeria's apparent "firepower", automatically makes them prisoners of war. They must therefore, be tried for all the crimes and atrocities they have committed against the Nigerian people. The rationale for this is that all Nigerians are subject to the laws of the land, and no one, however highly placed or violent, is above the laws of the land.

Merely surrendering to the Federal Government of Nigeria should not erroneously be construed as evidence of repentance, on the part of the Boko Haram movement. Nor does it signify the unwillingness of the dreaded sect (one of the four most dreaded and violent sects in the world), to further the course of their murderous engagements and pastimes.

It is common knowledge that these vampirous insurgents are said to be surrendering, because their acclaimed leader is said to have been killed. Nigerian actors in Government, are not good students of history. If they are, they would know that when Mohammed Yusuf (the founder of Boko Haram) was killed, his followers dispersed only to regroup and come back stronger. Abubakar Shekau (Yusuf's successor), who was never apprehended and tried, was to later put Nigeria in a worse position than Yusuf ever did. There is therefore, a very strong probability that if these surrendered terrorists are rehabilitated in the funny way the Federal Government of Nigeria has been going about it, they will come out worse than Shekau, if they are not properly tried under appropriate laws of the land.

Is Rehabilitation the Right Way to go?

Were we not suffering from collective amnesia, we should have scrutinised the antecedents of members of this deadly sect whose goals are to kill, maim, destroy established institutions and set up an Islamic Republic. They made it clear in their very name, "Boko Haram" (education is a taboo). In pursuit of this ignoble venture, members of Boko Haram in Nigeria have adopted the cruelest war tactics of attacking noncombatants, civilians, soft civilian spots and nonviolent cantonments and whole villages. They abduct women and children at will and subject them to all manners of grievous ill-treatment, forced labour, rape, torture, abuse, dehumanisation, forced marriage, child marriage and all sorts of unimaginable crimes against humanity. Unlike the then Niger Delta militants who were rehabilitated by then President Umaru Yar' Adua (God bless his soul), these bandits are not fighting for any perceived imbalance in the society. They are not fighting for a better society, or restoration of any denied rights or privileges. Their war is fundamentally against western civilisation/education, the very bedrock of the Nigerian society and all known tenets of democracy.

The insurgents are merely surrendering, because they do not have any nucleus leader to galvanise them at the moment. The moment a new leader emerges and is announced, they will definitely rejoin their colleagues in the forests, and resume their destruction of civilisation and all institutions in Nigeria.


Rehabilitation is certainly not the right course to pursue. It is surely counter- productive. As provided in the Geneva Convention Act, the right way to go is to subject these surrendered terrorists to fair trial in properly constituted courts of law, and get their just desert.

AllAfrica publishes around 600 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.