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Why senate should shelve B’Haram Bill

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RECENTLY, Senate introduced a bill proposing state-financed western education to “repentant Boko Haram terrorists.” The Senator, Representing Yobe-East and immediate past governor of Borno State, Ibrahim Gaidam sponsored the bill which proposes to establish a ‘National Agency for Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria.”

  AMONG other provisions, the agency will be funded from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and annual subventions from federal government under the bill.

Although the initial likely beneficiaries of the legislation appear to be 25 Boko Haram members  who recently arrived in Maiduguri after they reportedly surrendered to troops in Niger Republic and their wives, it is expected that more insurgents will be enrolled on laying down their arms.

This furthers the proposed agency’s primary assignment of rehabilitating and reintegrating defecting or repenting Boko Haram members or their acolytes into society to make them useful.

   PROPONENTS of the bill say it will help in creating room for reconciliation apart from promoting national security while constantly serving as  impetus or motivation for other members of the terrorist gang who are looking for incentive to drop their heavy but inexplicable war against Nigeria to accept government’s olive branch.

  BUT the proposed bill, though in its incubation, has sparked controversy. 

  ALTHOUGH the bill may not be unconnected with earlier promises by federal government sometime in 2017, when Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin pledged to ensure “total de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of all ex-Boko Haram members before re-integrating them into society in line with international best practices,” not a few find it funny now.

  OF COURSE, Olonisakin read President Muhammadu Buhari’s lips when he said that “Nigerian government is ready to accept unconditional laying down of arms by any member of Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard” before mounting the lectern. Perhaps, this explains why his words were followed by the handing over of 244 allegedly repentant Boko Haram suspects to Borno State Government by the military, with another 154 ex-Boko Haram fighters benefitting under the knotty De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) program soon to be reintegrated into society.

  THESE projections ring wanly among  opponents of the proposed rehabilitation and re-integration scheme because it uses western education as it’s bulwark. A leading light in the camp of opponents is a public interest activism body called Socio – Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP).

  ACCORDING to Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, Senators should sponsor bills that afford access to justice and reparation for victims of Boko Haram terrorism. The proposed bill, SERAP argues, is akin to extracting apology or reparation from the hunted for the hunter given the fact that it will take the victims, the Nigerian taxpayers to pay for the tuition of the terrorists who maimed them.

  WHILE we are not oblivious of what sponsors of the bill explain as likely benefits accruable to the country in throwing arms open for renegade terrorists, through facilitation of western education, we observe that the argument for the scheme is not only unconvincing but affronting.  They are far-fetched when interfaced with some  socio-political issues being prodded into the controversy by those against the legislation.

  WE STAND behind Nigerians who cannot see the ‘justice’ in laying red carpet, at huge financial implications in these trying times, for people who voluntarily took up arms against their fellow citizens only to return when they had  their fill in wanton bloodletting.

 It simply makes a mockery of their suffering victims – some of whose lives and livelihood were damaged irretrievably through loss of lifetime savings and other unspeakable mortal tragedies.

These citizens, who are  currently picking their bones in needless humanitarian crisis that was triggered in collorally of Boko Haram sadism and terrorism deserve something better than rubbing salt on their injuries which is what the proposal on the Senate floor appears to be.

  BY CALLING Boko Haram members “ex-agitators,” the bill seeks to shield these ex-terrorists, and that is if they are properly so-called, from justice under Nigeria and international laws. This is why not a few wonder why Boko Haram members should be ‘goaded’ into western education which is the same ‘evil’ for which they have been bombing and shooting other Nigerians in churches, mosques, market places, schools, among others at a time over 13 million Nigerian children of school age are roaming the streets because of the Boko Haram havoc

  THE bill serves neither justice nor public interest, and does not represent value for money for taxpayers. It is a product of sheer political brinkmanship at best and acutely insensitive on the part of its sponsors at worst.

  THE only true justice available for alleged repentant Boko Haram members and their foot soldiers is their accelerated prosecution at the law courts under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the 1985 United Nations Protocols on Basic Principles of Justice for Crime and Abuse of Power.

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