By Augustine Ehikioya
Against the belief in some quarters that the surrendered Boko Haram members would be given unconditional amnesty, the military has declared that their fates would be determined when a Truth and Reconciliation Panel is constituted on the matter.
While some of those who have surrendered were involved in the act of terrorism and sent many innocent Nigerians to their early graves, others were conscripted and hypnotized to do the biddings of the terrorists.
There was also criticism recently from the public on why the surrendered insurgents should be welcomed and given special treatments instead of being made to immediately face the law and answer for their crimes.
But in an exclusive interview with Security Watch Africa (SWA) in his office in Maiduguri, Borno State, the Theatre Commander, Joint Task Force, North East Operation HADIN KAI, Major General, Christopher Musa, said that the military has handled the surrendered insurgents in line with best global practices.
Whether the insurgents would be forgiven or prosecuted, he said, that would be decided when the Truth and Reconciliation Panel is constituted and meet with the victims, surrendered Boko Haram members and other stakeholders.
He said “As part of the discussion we had, there will be truth and reconciliation, that’s why I told you the victims would be invited, the perpetrators will be there. They will meet face to face and talk to themselves. Yes, I forgive you, no, I don’t forgive you, I want you to go for prosecution. All these things will play out there. We will make sure that it is well handled.
“And we are also suggesting that the victims too should be compensated. It is not just go, it is over, they should be able to benefit something. Not that we are paying back life, but let him have something to show that it’s not all bad.”
He pointed out that those who have committed crime are being kept and treated separately from others while waiting for the Truth and Reconciliation gathering to begin.
Speaking on how the military appeared to be treating the surrendered insurgents with kid gloves, he said “Even in the military convention all over the world, when we are fighting war, once you drop your weapon and surrender, I cannot arm you again. That’s the norm. So, that’s what we are doing.
“We are just following that international convention that once somebody surrenders, he should be treated humanely, even if he is sick or injured, he should be treated well. If he’s hungry, you should give him food and give him shelter, until when he is prosecuted and the law takes over from there. So, that is exactly what we are doing.”
Asked if the Armed Forces have enough manpower to tackle the various security challenges facing the country, Major General Musa said “You know, manpower can never be enough. The country is about 200 million and there is a percentage for every country to maintain for the military.
“Armed Forces can never be enough and Armed Forces can never do everything alone. We need other services to come in, especially the Police. We need the Police to step in and be able to do so much.
“Because like what we are doing, if we liberate areas, we need those other ones to come in so that there will be civil authority to sustain the thing. The Armed Forces is almost doing everything, which is not supposed to be. But I know with peace gradually coming in, everything will change,” he assured.
Speaking on his immediate predecessor and current Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, he said “We have been together since 1986. So, he’s somebody that you want to learn a lot from because I can guarantee you that religion, tribe, doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t look at that at all. His own is performance.
“And he knows what we are going through. We are even lucky here, before we ask for anything, he will say, I know you need this and you need that. I know it has helped us a lot. And stepping into his shoes is a very large space, but I know we have learnt a lot from him. So, it’s very easy to follow up. What we are trying to do is to enhance from where he stopped to take it further.”
On the COAS’s recent directive on professionalism, he said “I told you he is a soldier’s soldier. So, we just keyed into that aspect and it makes it easy for officers to understand that without soldiers, we don’t have officers. That’s the key element. And if your soldiers are not happy, they can’t give you the best.
“If you want your soldiers to give you the best, you have to take care of them, listen to their problems, provide for them and train them properly. Apart from training, make sure that discipline is enhanced and your law should be that whoever does what is wrong should be sanctioned, if you do what is right, you should be rewarded.
“Those are the policies and they are working. And you can see from the troops, anywhere you meet them, there is sense of purpose, nobody here will say because I’m from the North, South or East, Christian or Moslem, no. That’s why we all dress alike. We are all one and the same,” he stated.
On how the troops received President Muhammadu Buhari’s 61st Independence Anniversary speech concerning them, he said “Very well. He equally said the same thing at the UN General Assembly, he mentioned it. And these are great achievements, it just showed commitment on behalf of the Federal Government, on behalf of the Armed Forces and other Security Agencies.
“The name HADIN KAI shows everyone is part of the success story and I think that is why we are having this peace that is coming in to the environment. And we intend to continue to sustain it, knowing that everybody is part of it, everybody needs this peace for things to develop.
“The State government is doing so well and the Federal Government is doing well, the Armed Forces and other Security Agencies are also doing well too. And together, with hands on, we shall achieve so much,” he said.
Asked his message to Nigerians, he said “It’s just for every Nigerian to take ownership of what’s going on in the peace effort. Everybody has a part to play, not only for the military, it’s for everyone to be part of it, to understand that we are all Nigerians and Nigerians have died in the course of this peace efforts. Everyone has a part to play and everyone must put his hand on deck to make sure we have peace in Nigeria.”