By Sumaila Ogbaje, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The push by the Nigerian Armed Forces to end insurgency in the North East of the country has so far led to the surrender of 82,237 fighters and their families since July 2021.
The bulk of the surrendered fighters of Boko Haram and Islamic States West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorist groups, were women and children of the fighters and others rescued by the military.
The administration of this huge number of combatants and their families has raised immense interest from local and international stakeholders.
Nigeria has been confronting insurgency and terrorism in the North Eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe for over a decade.
Borno being the epicenter of the insurgency have also had to battle with the devastation and destruction of lives and property occasioned by the war.
The challenge of insurgency had led to militarization of the entire region since 2010 with the operationalisation of Joint Task Force Operation that has transformed in name and scope since 2013, till date.
The current Joint Task Force NorthEast Operation Hadin Kai, which was reorganized and recalibrated in 2021, has achieved milestone in dealing with the menace leading to mass surrender of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists alongside their families.
So far, available records show that over 82,237 fighters and their families have surrendered since July 2021, out of which 16,577 were active male fighters, 24,499 women and 41,161 children.
These figures exclude those that were arrested and awaiting prosecution, or rehabilitation and reintegration.
This category of terrorists are being held at the Joint Investigation Centre (JIC) at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the Borno capital and Kainji in Niger State.
The JIC is for temporary holding and investigation of suspected and confirmed arrested terrorists.
Currently, there are a total of 1,893 of such suspects in custody, out of which 886 are awaiting transfer to Giwa Project in Kainji for prosecution.
A total of 323 of them were recently transferred to Operation SAFE CORRIDOR in Gombe for the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programme.
At the JIC, there are a number of female detainees who also have children with them. One of them is Aisha Ibrahim, mother of little Muhammadu, who have spent a year and some months at the detention facility.
Majority of the female detainees are wives of suspected and arrested Boko Haram terrorists who have been profiled and categorized for either prosecution or deradicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Aisha was pregnant at the time she was apprehended. She gave birth to little Mohammadu, her only son, on May 15, exactly seven months ago.
When asked by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on whether she ever thought of aborting the pregnancy after her rescue, her response was no.
Also asked if she was ever told to get rid of the pregnancy by anyone, be it the military or government officials, she also responded no.
According to her, she was adequately taken care of during the pregnancy up to delivery.
Aisha added that since she gave birth, little Mohammad has been receiving immunisation to prevent him from contracting childhood killer diseases.
The immunization card of the little boy cited by NAN revealed that he took another immunization on Nov. 28, at the military medical facility.
Repentant or surrendered Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists
At the Hajj Camp, one of the holding facilities where about 15,000 repentant terrorists and their families were being housed by the Borno State Government, there are well over 10,000 women and children including new born.
The Medical Officer in Charge of the camp’s health facility, Muhammed Saleh said a total of 252 babies were born between July and October this year, adding that majority of the women came into the camp with pregnancy.
Saleh said that the camp currently has hundreds of pregnant women who were being catered for adequately, adding that new babies were being delivered on daily basis.
Falmata, a 19-year-old pregnant woman, told NAN that she had spent six years in the bush with her terrorist husband before she surrendered alongside other families about six months ago.
Falmata who revealed that her husband was still in the bush, said that she was two months pregnant before coming to the camp.
She said the government has been taking care of her medical and other needs, and expressed hope of reuniting with her parents soon.
Rescued Chibok School girls
At the Bulumkutu Interim Care Centre (ICC) where 14 Chibok school girls recently rescued by the militare were being rehabilitated, it was a story of joy and pains for 25-year-old Rejoice Sanki (serial no.70), who was rescued with her two children.
Narrating her ordeal, Sanki told NAN that she was forced to marry a terrorist, who she intensely “detested even while remembering his name and face”. Sanki said she was tortured when she initially refused to marry the terrorist, but had no option than to do what they wanted.
The Chibok girl said she was lucky to escape with her children and was rescued by the military.
She thanked the government for taking care of her and her children, adding that reuniting with her parent and being able to go back to school remained her earnest expectations.
“When I was in Chibok school, I was a science student and my ambition was to become a medical doctor. I have suffered very well because this is not who I was and what I wanted to become,” she said.
Also, Yana Pogu (24), serial number 19 on the missing Chibok girls list, who was rescued with her four kids, including a set of twins, said her greatest desire is to reunite with her parents and take good care of the children.
Pogu said the Borno government had been taking good care of them and their kids, but would like to go back to school to be educated again, so as to be useful to her family and the society.
At the same centre, there are about 1,000 children separated from their parents as a result of the insurgency. Their parents are yet to be located.
The children are however being catered for educationally, medically and mentally by the state government.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zuwaira Gambo, said that 118 of the children would be reunited with their parents in a couple of days.
The role of the military and NGOs
The Theatre Commander, Joint Task Force North East Operation Hadin Kai, Maj.-Gen. Christopher Musa, said the counter-insurgency operations of the military was 75 per cent non-kinetic, with just 25 per cent kinetic activities.
Musa said the military, being the first responder and first point of contact with the terrorists at the point of capture or surrender, had been actively involved in humanitarian support services for both rescued and surrendered Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists and their families.
He also said the military had continued to operate within the provision of humanitarian laws in line with global best practices with regards to handling of arrested and surrendered terrorists, as well as rescued victims of insurgency.
Musa said the military remained committed to providing needed support to the state government, public agencies, as well as local and international NGOs and CSOs operating in the state.
However, an interaction between journalists and NGOs on Nov. 29, showed that foreign NGOs shy away from talking to Nigerian media as they were evasive about disclosing the role they play in addressing humanitarian issues in the North East.
Brian LaGuardia, Head Civil-Military Coordination, United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), who spoke on behalf of the 245 INGOs and domestic NGOs said he would not be able to speak on the issues.
He was evasive when further asked to give assessment of the ongoing operations and the handling of rescued women and children.
The Commander, 7 Division Medical Services and Hospital Maiduguri, Lt.-Col. Adeniyi Ogunsakin, said the hospital was largely dedicated to managing wounded troops and barracks’ residents.
He however said that the facility had attended to few cases of wounded and rescued victims of Boko Haram insurgency.
Ogunsakin said the military had also attended to the rescued Chibok girls and their children because of the peculiarity of their case.
He said one of the Chibok girls who was rescued, came in with pregnancy and two babies and the hospital had to take care of her and the children.
Ogunsakin said she was later released to the theatre command and subsequently handed over to the state government after the hospital ensured that she was clinically stable.
On whether the hospital performs abortion for women that came out of terrorists’ dens with pregnancy, Ogunsakin said the hospital had never performed abortion on any of the women, either on request or through any other person.
“We don’t have the power to terminate anybody’s pregnancy in this hospitals and even if a mother tells us, we don’t grant such request because it is against our practice,” the commander added. (NANFeatures)