By Our Editorial Team
When the news broke that some Boko Haram members were surrendering to the Nigerian Army, some people doubted it, while others were happy with the news. There were some who believed but doubted the sincerity.
Concerned with this, Security Watch Africa’s team set out to find out the true situation. And that began our journey to meet and talk with some of the surrendered BH members and their families.
We flew into the now bustling city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. Though, this was not our first time but Maiduguri keeps surprising us with increase vehicular activities and businesses even till late hours of the day.
The next morning, we commenced a two and half hours movement on a very bad road to the community where the Nigerian Army personnel receive the surrendering BH members fresh from their various camps in Sambisa Forest. This community is at the fringes of the now notorious forest.
In the community, those repentant BH members we met, now out and free from Boko Haram camps, recounted their experiences with the verdict that life is better here than in the forests.
They spoke in local dialects in separate exclusive interviews with Security Watch Africa (SWA). While some of them were conscripted and hypnotized to do many evil things, others were providing underground critical services for the operations of the Boko Haram insurgents.
Also, some female Nigerians were abducted and forced to marry and bear children for the Boko Haram leaders, others merely warm the insurgents’ beds in their time of relaxation.
Whether they were directly involved in the killings of many innocent Nigerians in the past eleven years or not, the newly surrendered Nigerians, have sought for forgiveness of Nigerians, if nothing at all, for finding themselves on the side of the terrorists and for the various roles they might have played in the evil camps.
One of the surrendered member said “My name is Alhaji Moro, we came from Sambisa in Njimia, I have lived in the forest for six years, in the forest we were repairing mainly Toyota Hilux.
“Before joining Boko Haram, I was doing mechanic work and newspaper publishing. Here is better than the forest. I left my children behind because they refused me access to them. The leaders of Nigeria want peaceful living. Even the soldiers are happy. They accepted us, even the soldiers are happy. We didn’t expect we will be welcomed this way. The others should try and leave the forest and join us,” he said.
Another surrendered member said “My name is Hassan Majo, I repair machines. I also buy and sell them, we buy old motorcycles, fix and sell them back. We use to import them from Hakinta Kurawa in the suburb of Cameroun. I wasn’t with them back then but now I am.
“I work as a journalist with them, my duties are to repair computers and report news. If they’re going for battle, we don’t go with them.
“The world needs peace, that’s why our friends advised us to surrender in order to stop killing one another because at that time, we were not afraid of anything.
“Now, we are happy that people have accepted us and we are calling on others to surrender themselves. Here, they give us food, they take good care of us. I want them to forgive us for what we have done,” he pleaded.
Another surrendered member, a female, said “My name is Amina Mohammed, I am here with the others. They are Hasfat Aliu, Fatima Ahmed, Hauwa Mohammed and Aisha Ibrahim.
“Yes… we came from Sambisa in Njimia town. We didn’t like the forest; it was when we came out we started enjoying the city. What we’ve been hearing and what we met here is different.
“We were taken to the forest with force and got us married over there. My husband is no more, he was killed in the caterpillar war. What separated us from our parents was that they were looking for wives, then they kidnapped us and took us to the forest,” she said.
Amina went on “In the forest, we do some small hawking, we sell locally made spaghetti, they told us in the forest that when we surrender ourselves to the Nigerian Army that the Army will kill us. They assured us that when they the Boko Haram kill us, our parents will get to see our corpses. But if the Army get hold of us, we will be beaten mercilessly and starved to death.
“Now we are out, the Nigerian Army didn’t touch us nor maltreat us, rather they fed us, clothed us. The Nigerian Army received us with open hands, they kept and protected us.
“A lot of people have left the forest. But there are people still in the forest even when we were leaving, there are people there. They are not much as before. I want to advice everyone to come out.
“We that left the forest, here we are, the Army didn’t do anything to us, not even a touch nor demoralizing words.
“We are mixed with children, men, and nothing has happened to us. We had the news that people were spreading rumors that when you leave the forest and the Army sees you, they shoot at sight. We also had the rumor that Mallam Musa and Small has been taken to caterpillar, that explosive device was striped on their body they were kllled.
“We were also told that all the women that left the forest no one is alive again, they’ve all been killed, all are lies, nothing happened to us we are okay, we drink, we eat whatever we want. They did nothing to us. (exclaimed) nothing will take us back to the forest.
“Look at us now, we are back to where we belong. In the forest, there’s no social amenities. When you’re sick nothing will be given to you, if you wake up in the morning and you’re alive fine, if you’re not that means you’re dead. God will protect us. Every other person in the forest that wants to surrender should please come out and do so, look at us, we are alive and looking healthy,” Amina added.
Another member said “My name is Mallam Madul from Balakuri, Sambisa Forest in Njimia. I have never been married. We knew each other in the forest, we came from the same village. I was working with a newspaper company for Shekau’s group, I left them.
“We use to move from one place to another, but our current location is bushier than the others. We were living in the forest before I returned to my father in the east side of the forest across the tarred road.
“I was a motor repairer. As I left mechanic work, I then returned to my former job which is journalism. My relatives are living in Maskas, I returned to them in the forest with my father and my four siblings. I want them to comeback. They didn’t show me anything, I didn’t like what was happening in the bush. The public should forgive us so we can live in peace,” he said.