In the past few weeks, the news circle has been dominated by reports of repeated surrenders of Boko Haram terrorists to the Nigerian military. More than 2,000 terrorists were reported to have surrendered and branded ‘repentant’ by the Army, claiming adherence to international laws relating to ‘enemies willing to surrender’.
Lai Muhammed, the Minister for Information and Culture, also said repentant Boko Haram terrorists should not be prosecuted but treated as prisoners of war.
Amidst controversies trailing the legitimacy of reintegrating terrorists into society, there have been concerns and conversations on and off social media. While loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari see the massive surrenders of the insurgents as a great milestone, observers and critics are sceptical, wondering if the weekly parades of repentant terrorists are not mere propaganda. This has raised a major question: why are these terrorists suddenly surrendering to the Army?
After studying the trajectory of reportage, FIJ contacted sources with sufficient knowledge of the activities of the terrorists in their hideouts:
THE DEATH OF SHEKAU
On May 19, Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader who was drivng a brutal jihadist campaign, was ambushed in Sambisa Forest by rival insurgents of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). Shekau was reported to have died after exploding his suicide vest.
His death, FIJ gathered, was followed by a period of instability within the jihadist movement, as ISWAP hunted down any Boko Haram commanders who refused to swear allegiance, before resuming its fight against government forces.
Sources say ISWAP fighters carted away weapons from Shekau’s base and became even better armed. After the operation, as many as 18 Boko Haram commanders defected to the rival insurgent group.
“The Shekau empire collapsed after his death. Many of his foot soldiers became powerless because ISWAP took over their gunfires. The Shekau faction of Boko Haram became leaderless,” a source told FIJ.
Foot soldiers left in Shekau’s faction became insurgents without arms, leaving them with no option other than pledging allegiance to the ISWAP commanders. ISWAP eventually realigned with Boko Haram to fight Nigerian soldiers and impose taxes on peasant farmers within their territories.
An interim council headed by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi restructured the leadership of the extremist sect. The shake-up, FIJ gathered, was in line with a directive from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an international terrorist group that claims religious authority over all Muslims.
After forming a coalition, many of Shekau’s fighters were arrested and incarcerated in an ISWAP prison at Tumbum Kayowa for committing various crimes. Also, commanders of the Shekau faction were reduced to junior fighters and marabout slaves in the ISWAP lair.
FIJ gathered that the Shekau faction of Boko Haram fighters would rather renounce their participation in the terrorism campaign and surrender to the Nigerian troops than remain with ISWAP to continue facing humiliation in the camps.
“The massive surrenders of Boko Haram fighters are largely due to loss of confidence, maltreatment, and growing of insurrections between the ISWAP and members of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah Wa’l-Jihād (JAS) after the death of their leader, Abubakar Shekau,” a source with the knowledge of the insurgents’ activities told PRNigeria and his claim was corroborated by sources who spoke to FIJ.
Earlier this month, ISIS sacked some leaders of Boko Haram in Nigeria, following the recent massive surrenders to the Army. Another reason for the sack was the leaders’ failure to sustain the reunification of ISWAP and Boko Haram fighters after the demise of Abubakar Shekau.
HUNGER AND DISEASES
“Basically, the Shekau faction of Boko Haram are the ones surrendering, not the ISWAP,” another source told FIJ. “Many of them could no longer go to farm since ISWAP fighters took over. So, they’re hungry.”
Suddenly, there was an outbreak of diseases such as cholera and malaria in their hideouts. They were also burdened by hunger because they could no longer farm. So, many of the insurgents were advised by their famished wives and relatives to surrender to the Army when they could not withstand the disaster that befell them.
FIJ had reported how many of the repentant terrorists, during profiling, admitted that their various enclaves had been ravaged by hunger, disease, and the fear of military offensives.
The heavy bombardment campaign targeting infrastructure, armouries, camps and high-valued locations of the insurgents had also forced them into hiding and caused hunger and hard living conditions in their hideouts.