No fewer than 51,000 repentant terrorists and their families have surrendered to troops serving in various theatres of operation in the North East, the military has said.
The Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, Major General Chris Musa, disclosed this to Channels Television during the latest edition of News Night which aired on Monday.
He explained that residents in the region have been helpful to the military, especially in the area of intelligence gathering despite the communication barrier in some localities.
“We get information as quickly as things are happening,” the commander said. “Sometimes, the challenge might probably be the way to communicate because we do not have network everywhere; but as soon as they get to where they can send messages across to us, they let us know.
“That has assisted us greatly in subduing the insurgents to such an extent that we have so much peace. We have over 51,000 insurgents and their family members that have surrendered to us.”
Nothing To Fear
While many individuals and groups perceive the laying down of weapons by insurgents as a sign that the security forces are winning the war, others remain skeptical about the intention of such persons.
General Musa, on his part, believes Nigerians, especially residents in the North East have nothing to fear as the military will continue to ensure they are well protected from criminally-minded persons.
According to him, the Nigerian Armed Forces has managed situations as such in the past in other countries, and replicating the same approach will be no different this time.
The Operation Hadin Kai chief in his words, “Normally there will be some concerns and I don’t blame the public for that, but I just want to assure them that we are professionals and we have done this before … in other countries where we had issues of disarmament.
“What goes on here now is that as soon as any of them is willing to surrender, he reports straight to the closest military location. The commander on the ground has his troops ready to disarm them, take over their arms, search them and profile them.
“Then the state government provides buses to move them to the camps already provided. The state government takes care of the management and administration, what we do is ensure that the perimeter is secure. So, we want to assure members of the communities that they are well secured and that they (repentant terrorists) will not pose any threat to anybody.
Why Surrender Now?
Musa, who revealed that the population of repentant terrorists and their families in the military’s custody was recorded in less than a year, gave an insight into what could have prompted the decision to surrender at this time.
A lot of them, according to him, were tired of the fight and wanted to come out to lay their arms but could not do so because of the fear of being killed for disloyalty.
He added that the leadership tussle within the terrorists’ camp following the death of their leader – Shekau, also created an avenue for willing insurgents to surrender to troops.
“I know everybody is asking why are they even surrendering now? For us, the surrendering started since July 2021 and for them to have been there (in the camps) to date shows you some level of commitment and why are they surrendering,” the senior military officer explained.
“The death of Shekau has opened a lot of opportunities because while he (Shekau) was there, he was very brutal; anybody who attempts to escape will be killed. They were scared of him (Shekau).
“But they knew we would treat them professionally; by the laws of war, once your enemies surrender, you are duty-bound to receive him and treat him humanely until the process of the legal system takes its course, and that is what we are doing.”
General Musa also faulted the claims that the military was pampering the repentant persons who played various roles in the over-decade-long insurgency that claimed thousands of lives.
Rather, he said, “We are not pampering them; we are just being in line with the statutory laws on the ground and that is why we ensure that all those ones that have been profiled are brought in and kept secure. Out of the over 51,000, 11,000 are males but not all of them are combatants.
“Among the males, we have some that were enslaved, those that were born there, and those that were conscripted. Gradually, those are going to be sorted out, and then the legal system will take its course.”