In the wake of the mass surrender of Boko Haram insurgents, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State has revealed the dilemma facing the administration over their reintegration into the wider society.
Zulum made this known on Sunday when he addressed military officers and community leaders at the Brigades in Gwoza and Bama, and community leaders at the palaces of the Emir of Gwoza and Shehu of Bama.
According to him, the situation required diverse stakeholders including representatives of attacked communities, to come together and critically review the pros, cons and implications of the surrender, in order to agree on a framework that was well-thought-out.
“We (in Borno) are in a very difficult situation over the ongoing surrender by insurgents. We have to critically look between two extreme conditions and decide our future. We have to choose between an endless war or to cautiously accept the surrendered terrorists, which is really painful and difficult for anyone that has lost loved ones; difficult for all of us and even for the military, whose colleagues have died and for volunteers.
“No one would find it easy to accept killers of his or her parents, children and other loved ones. In the last 12 years, we have been in this war, and we have lost thousands of fellow citizens.
“We don’t know the whereabouts of thousands of others; we don’t know whether they are alive or dead? In these 12 years, millions have been made homeless and many wealthy farmers, transporters and others have been rendered poor.
“In these years, we were able to cultivate maybe around 3% of the arable land, and as a result, our people became dependent on food aid amid donor fatigue and potential food insecurity, infact the repercussions of the Boko Haram crisis are enormous and as someone, who has been involved with assessment of the impacts and rebuilding efforts in the last seven years. I am in position to know the endless negative impact the Boko Haram has made in Borno,” Zulum said.
The governor said accepting Boko Haram had the risk of seriously offending the feelings of victims with the potential of civil rebellion, just as there was the risk that if Boko Haram fighters willing to surrender were rejected, they could join ISWAP to swell the ranks of fighters in the bush and the path of peace becomes narrowed.
“On my way travelling to Gwoza and Bama, I saw many people cultivating their farmlands by the roadside and this is an indication of emerging peace, which we have to sustain in order to salvage our people.
“However, as I said, we must come together to carefully analyse the two extremes and come up with a workable framework” Zulum explained further.