Nigerians, particularly those in the North, have been subjected to Islamist violence for over a decade. To negotiate a ceasefire, the Nigerian government is pardoning and amnestying Boko Haram members. Probably because this worked with Niger Delta militants in southern Nigeria.
The Defense Headquarters launched Operation Safe Corridor in 2016. This operation allows a repentant Boko Haram member to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. Vocational, deradicalization, and civic training are all part of this treatment.
Some of them are thrown back into society to live among the victims.
Why Grant Amnesty?
According to Britannica, Amnesty, in criminal law, is a sovereign act of oblivion or forgetfulness for past acts, granted by a government to persons who have been guilty of crimes. It is often conditional upon their return to obedience and duty within a prescribed period. Amnesty is granted usually for political crimes against the state, such as treason, sedition, or rebellion.
Boko Haram has killed about 34,000 people in Borno state since 2011. Zamfara, Kaduna, Adamawa, and Benue had 3,500 to 4,800 deaths each. Joint counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations by Nigerian and other impacted countries failed.
Many troops are slain, their weapons confiscated, and their families are ignored by the government. To combat this insecurity, the Nigerian government is increasing its defense spending. Failure has resulted in massive national financial losses. This indirectly impacts vital budgets like education and health.
The sect has damaged property worth $9.2 billion. Given these and other circumstances, the Nigerian government decided to provide amnesty to Boko Haram so they can stop their attacks.
Boko Haram Victims
In Nigeria, a new cultural paradigm is emerging that ignores victims of violence while praising perpetrators. The Boko Haram sect has displaced over 2.4 million individuals since its inception. Some of the displaced are sent to refugee camps, while the rest wander around in rural areas.
The UNHCR reports 304,562 Nigerian refugees, 2.1 million IDPs, and 778,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. Despite the government’s and international aid agencies’ efforts, many IDPs live in appalling conditions. Rape, hunger, and other issues plague these camps. Boko Haram continues to attack and kill hundreds of IDPs.
Can Boko Haram Surrender?
Some Boko Haram militants weren’t recruited. They were coerced into joining. In 2020, Boko Haram was said to be recruiting kid troops. So they are quick to submit and will even flee the gang if given the chance.
If genuine, such coerced recruits deserve rehabilitation and amnesty. Using intimidation, threats, and religion, some members were duped into joining a terrorist cell. However, most Boko Haram members are not really repentant.
Many repentant Boko Haram militants are spies, says Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum. Following their visit to the Safe Corridor, insurgents often return to their jihadist group after thoroughly assessing the local security measures. This puts the Nigerian Army at a disadvantage.
Also, Nigerians do not want them back. The Nigerian government has run out of tactics to contain the murderous group. On the other hand, most Nigerians opposed a bill to establish a rehabilitation organization for repentant Boko Haram militants. Stakeholders reacted angrily to the proposed legislation.
Their main point was that while Boko Haram victims suffered from various social ills, the government planned to shelter the attackers. Rehabilitation and amnesty are cruel, callous, and egregious injustices to Boko Haram victims. These victims believe they should be the ones in rehabilitation.
Furthermore, SANs advise the Federal Government not to reintegrate Boko Haram members until they are no longer a threat to society. Restoring peace and security may be hindered if repentant terrorists are given access to crucial security positions.
Is Amnesty Right?
The government is disregarding the underlying problem by providing amnesty to Boko Haram members. The hundreds of remorseful terrorists don’t buy the weapons they give up. The terrorist group has sponsors. The restoration has been going on for years. Despite this, Boko Haram’s violent acts are still in the news. SaharaReporters recently reported Boko Haram killing 25 soldiers in Borno.
According to SaharaReports, the Nigerian Army has received over 8,000 repentant Boko Haram fighters in recent months. The terrorist group is reportedly recruiting heavily to replace the repentant members. Unless the sponsors are brought to justice, more members will keep coming. The low literacy rate in northern Nigeria makes this simple.
Also, repentant Boko Haram members cannot dwell in the same villages as their victims. There’s a good likelihood of more fighting. Amnesty for Boko Haram terrorists is unjust and unfair because they have killed and continue to kill. It’s particularly risky because they dwell among their victims in communities they ruined.
While few terrorists deserve rehabilitation, those who have shed blood must face the law. Former Boko Haram members must be dealt with according to Nigerian and international laws. A special Boko Haram tribunal might be established. Incorporating the 2013 Terrorism Proscription Order and the Nigerian Terrorism Prevention Act could help (2011).
The tribunal could work with the security forces to prosecute suspected Boko Haram members and bring them to justice. Inspire Nigeria to reaffirm the rule of law and human decency. Failure to do so will raise issues about the Nigerian government’s legitimacy and engender distrust among civilians.