The incessant power tussle, ethnic tension and failure to actualise the establishment of a caliphate in the Sahel in the top echelon of Boko Haram/Islamic States West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorist groups are forcing their members to lay down their arms, the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has said.
In a statement Friday, the MNJTF said 47 terrorists recently surrendered to its troops in the Lake Chad and surrounding areas.
Timothy Antigha, the Chief of Military Public Information, MNJTF N’Djamena – said in the statement that the terrorists surrendered with their families in Sector 1 of the MNJTF.
He said a member of the group, who admitted to have participated in various attacks on Banki, Fotokol, Gambarou Ngala, New Marte, Chikun Gudu, among others, had expressed frustration with the lack of progress in the jihad.
Antigha, a colonel, quoted the surrendered terrorist as saying, they could not make progress due to the preoccupation of the leadership in the pursuit of material things.
“They told us that we were being lied to and cheated by apostate governments, but I have not seen any difference between Shekau and those he has been condemning. He may even be worse. I am having it a lot better here because since we came out of the bush, we have been fed and catered for”.
The MNJTF is a combined multinational formation mandated to end the Boko Haram insurgency. It comprises soldiers from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, and is headquartered in N’Djamena.
In 2015, the Nigerian military launched the ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ to address extremist ideology and provide trauma counselling for Boko Haram defectors. More than 2,000 Boko Haram and ISWAP members have defected through the programme since its inception.
Last month, the Defence Headquarters announced that a new batch of 603 “repentant” Boko Haram terrorists had been reintegrated into the society. Earlier this month, the former terrorists had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The move came one year after the Nigerian army handed over 150 repentant insurgents to the Borno State government, amidst protests that the terrorists could exploit the de-radicalisation programme and launch more attacks.
Earlier this year, a Yobe State senator, Ibrahim Gaidam, sponsored a bill to establish an agency for the rehabilitation, deradicalisation, and integration of repentant insurgents in the country. The bill elicited condemnation among other senators and outrage across Nigeria.
In the Friday statement, Antigha further disclosed that another surrendered terrorist claimed that he was misled to kill innocent people, for which he might face physical and spiritual condemnation.
He said that the terrorist also added that there was ethnic rivalry among members of Boko Haram and ISWAP.
He quoted him as saying, “If you do not speak a particular language, you can not be appointed a commander or made a guard in the bush and you can not even be allowed to also go for tax collection.
“This discriminatory attitude has made some of us feel that we are not trusted and good enough to be given responsibilities.”
The spokesperson also disclosed that a female member of the group lamented the severe abuse of women in the camps and prayed that no woman should find herself in the situation she recently escaped from.
He quoted her as saying, “those people are ungodly, so they can not tell the world that they are doing the will of Allah.”
Antigha said the MNJTF has been consistent in its observation that Boko Haram and ISWAP are transnational criminal enterprises which have been sustained by grand deception, appeal to religious sentiments and violence.
“The force is therefore vindicated by the testimonies of the surrendered terrorists who spoke on their own volition.
“Consequently, the MNJTF renews the call on other misled fighters in the bush to come out. It is important to add that MNJTF Troop Contributing Countries have structures and programmes in place to receive all those who surrender.
“Similarly, the MNJTF urges communities to accept repented terrorists back after their rehabilitation, even though some of them had perpetrated heinous crimes.
“The MNJTF shares in the understanding that such a gesture by communities will go a long way in the continuing efforts to defeat terrorism and build peace in the Lake Chad Basin,” he said.