Borno State elders who met with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday have demanded the suspension of the military’s “operation safe corridor”, a de-radicalization programme that allows purportedly repentant Boko Haram militants released into civilian population, fearing hardened insurgents have exploited the programme to help escalate attacks.
The elders, led by Governor Kashim Shettima, also demanded a special approval for police in the state to be equipped with anti-aircraft guns in the fight against the insurgents.
They questioned the failure of the military to deploy majority of the 800 Civilian JTF fighters recruited into the Nigerian Army to Borno to join in combating the deadly sect.
The elders say the deployment of the Civilian JTF away from the state has deprived the anti-Boko Haram campaign a critical component since the indigenous fighters have excellent knowledge of the state’s terrain.
The elders raised this point in a 12-point letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. The letter made 10 demands of the president.
A senior official briefed about the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES that the Borno leaders told the president they were concerned that Civilian JTF who have been deeply involved in intelligence gathering, easy identification and arrest of suspected Boko Haram members, are worried the military’s “Operation Safe Corridor” could be breeding spies for insurgents because their recent freedom have coincided wiith accelerated attacks by the insurgents.
“The ongoing de-radicalization and reintegration of repentant Boko Haram insurgents under the “operation safe corridor” of the defense headquarters is a course for concern for members of the Civilian JTF and some stakeholders in the State, who suspect that “Boko Haram members do not repent” hence the de-radicalization programme may be breeding spies and agents of recruitment for the Boko Haram,” they said in the letter.
The letter demanded that ”Mr President should consider and approve the suspension of the ongoing de-radicalization and reintegration of repentant Boko Haram insurgents until such a time they do not pose serious threat to our fighting force”.
The source said the military’s operation safe corridor was not well thought out.
The elders, who met Mr Buhari at the presidential villa, said the ex-CJTF members are “fearless” and understand Borno’s terrain better than most soldiers deployed from other parts of the country.
The resurgence in attacks by Boko Haram has seen the insurgents take over some towns in northern part of Borno state before they were eventually overrun by the military special forces this week.
The terror group had also been attacking villages surrounding Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, with commentators saying the insurgents are determined to attack the capital.
The observation regarding the issue of deployment of the CJTF is the seventh in the elders’ letter, with a corresponding demand for Mr Buhari to order the immediate deployment of the 800 soldiers drawn from ex-CJTF fighters to Borno state.
The delegation to the president comprised of two former governors, traditional rulers, national and state assembly members, local government chairmen, representatives of unions of women, labour, journalists, religious leaders including the state chairmen of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Jama’atul Nasril Islam.
Our source said both observations and demands made by the group were generated during an extraordinary security meeting convened by the governor which had in attendance senior military officers including the theater commander of operation lafiya dole and the General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army.
Also in attendance were heads of the police, DSS, Civilian JTF fighters, hunters, traditional rulers, elders, national and state assembly members, chairmen of the Christian Association and Jama’atul Nasril Islam, representatives of labour, women council and chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists who ensured that journalists did not divulge any part of the meeting. That meeting held in Maiduguri on Monday, December 31, 2018.
At least 26,000 Civilian JTF members fight alongside the military.
The letter urged the president to consider working with the National Assembly for the “equipping of selected number of brave Civilian JTF, rather than all, with non-prohibitive arms and only for a specific period of time and under strict regulation by the military”.
“Mr President should consider working with the National Assembly towards the speedy amendment of the Terrorism Act or coming under “a doctrine of necessity” to approve the specialized and regulated use of non-prohibitive arms for selected volunteers of the Civilian JTF, for the specific reason of fighting the Boko Haram in specific locations.
“Such use of arms should be for a specific period of time under strict monitoring by the Military” the letter reads in its fourth demand.
It also informed the president that “the Borno State police command, which has the duty to preserve constitutional authorities in liberated and rebuilt communities, is faced with challenges of low man-power and dependence on AK 47 rifles to counter Boko Haram fighters who attack communities with AA (Anti-Aircraft) rifles”.
Consequently, the letter in another demand, said “Mr President should consider and approve, as a matter of special case, the specialized use of AA rifles for the Borno State Police Command for capacity enhancement as against the current dependence on AK 47 rifles”.