A majority of Nigerians who participated in an online poll by PREMIUM TIMES have kicked against a proposed bill to create an agency for the rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram members.
This is not surprising as the bill, since its introduction, has triggered outrage and debate from citizens across the country.
This is even as many have accused the lawmaker proposing it of supporting insurgents in the country and even sponsoring the attacks.
Many fear that releasing the ‘repentant’ Boko Haram militants into civilian population could be counterproductive as hardened fighters would return to the terror group to commit more atrocities.
Over 22,148 voters participated in the poll which was conducted on the PREMIUM TIMES’ website and on its official Twitter and Facebook pages.
The poll lasted for about five days and was conducted in a way that made it impossible for a respondent to vote more than once from the same computer or mobile device.
Participants were asked a single question: “Does Nigeria need an agency to rehabilitate Boko Haram members?” with options of “yes”and “no”.
On the Facebook poll, over 14,076 (92 per cent) respondents voted against the bill while 1,224 participants (18 per cent) supported it.
Similarly, on Twitter, 5,481 participants (91.9 per cent) voted against the idea, while 483 participants (8.1 per cent) supported it.
And on the website, 740 respondents (83.7 per cent) voted “no” and 144 respondents (16.3 per cent) voted “no”.
The bill seeks to create an agency “for rehabilitating, de-radicalising, educating and reintegrating the defectors, repentant and detained members of the insurgent group Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society”.
It is sponsored by former Yobe governor, Ibrahim Gaidam.
This legislation comes amidst incessant attacks in the North-east by bandits and suspected Biko Haram members with the most recent being the killing of over 50 people in Kaduna villages.
Despite the backlash, Mr Gaidam (Yobe East, APC) has attempted to justify his position why a commission is the best bet to address the unending insurgency.
Among other reasons, he said “the agency when established will help rehabilitate and reintegrate the defectors, repentant and forcefully conscripted members of the Boko Haram to make them useful members of the society and provide an avenue for reconciliation and promote national security.”
The agency, he said, would provide an avenue for reconciliation and promote national security and an-open-door and encouragement for other members of the group who are still engaged in the insurgency to abandon the group especially in the face of military pressure.”
Already, a few lawmakers have condemned the bill describing it as as needless, waste of resources and misplaced priority. This is even as they questioned the nationality of the insurgents.
While many have condemned the proposed legislation and accused the sponsor of conniving with insurgents, a few others, however, say the bill is not unconnected to promises made earlier by the federal government.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin, had in 2017 pledged to ensure the ‘’total de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of all ex-Boko Haram members before re-integrating them into the society in line with international best practices’’.
President Muhammadu Buhari also said the Nigerian government ‘’is ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard”.
His words were followed by the handing over 244 Boko Haram suspects, by the Nigerian army whom it said have given up membership of the terrorist group, to the Borno State government.
This is even as the army said another 154 ex-Boko Haram fighters had been ‘’rehabilitated under the De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) programme and are now set to be reintegrated into the society’’.
Among the groups to have condemned the bill, is the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which has urged the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to drop the bill noting that the legislation would enable ‘repentant terrorists’ to receive foreign education.
This will include accessing funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund) and subventions from the government.
The group in a statement said the bill “erodes justice and makes a mockery of the suffering of victims, and the unspeakable human tragedy, humanitarian crisis and appalling atrocities committed by the Boko Haram terrorist group”.
“By calling Boko Haram members ‘ex-agitators’, the Bill mocks the victims of appalling atrocities committed by the terrorist group, and is a blatant affront to victims’ dignity. ‘Repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ are not ‘ex-agitators’; they are terrorists under Nigerian and international laws.
“Boko Haram members should not be allowed to enjoy foreign education while over 13 million Nigerian children of school age are roaming our streets,” it said.
Other Nigerians have taken to social media to kick against the bill. Below are some reactions:
Same way they turned repentant hardened criminals to sars and they started killing innocent people.
Please please abeg abeg
— Yummy Yomi (@iamMrDray) February 20, 2020
No insults please ⚠️
President Umaru Yar adu'a gave amnesty to REPENTANT Niger Delta militants.
President Goodluck Jonathan gave most of them scholarship to study within and outside Nigeria. Today, most of them are – Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers to mention but a few.
— Ahmed Musa (@generalzango) February 20, 2020
How do you even think of such bill if you don’t play a role in the insurgency in the first place. Madness
— MrPhiltin (@MPhiltin) February 20, 2020
I don't just read headlines, but delve into content of stories. If Borno elders like ex-Gov. @KashimSM, Civilian JTF, and not excluding widows of slained soldiers have kicked against @MBuhari's release of these hardline BH terrorists, why this bill in @DrAhmadLawan's @NGRSenate? pic.twitter.com/uVPtPH3jT3
— His Knowledgeable (@HisKnowledgeabl) February 20, 2020
Things are getting clearer by the day, the agenda is becoming more apparent, the Northerners are telling us the Buhari's war against Terrorism is a facade. The Yorubas are probes to be the dumbest on the planet.
— Papi Chulo (@oluobededom) February 20, 2020
Permit me to say Nigeria is almost finished with this. You put armed robbers behind bars for years, even when they are remorseful ,they don’t get this kind of preferential treatment. Now terrorist gets this kind of treatment. Who rehabilitates these people if I may ask? S.M.H
— Gboy_Fabulouz (@davoe005) February 20, 2020
In a sane country, the senator sponsoring this Bill would have been placed on close watch as number one Boko Haram suspect!
— rXLuthorcorp (@ekenestan07) February 21, 2020
I think @NGRSenate should introduce a bill to re-brand yahoo yahoo boys, if Boko Haram can get this kind of treatment in Nigeria then we shouldn't send anyone to jail no matter their crime. BH have raped, stolen, killed, burnt and destroyed our women yet we smile at them.
— EGO(Egwu Godwin O) (@Egwuogodwin) February 20, 2020
This is indeed unfortunate! Why should the Nigerian Senate be rewarding terrorists? This is one of the reasons why the international community will never consider lending a helping hand to Nigeria. What the Senate is doing is tantamount to self-immolation.
— Nnamdi Abana (@nnamdiabana_) February 20, 2020
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