By Chioma Iruke
The whereabouts of at least 10 percent of Borno’s residents are unknown due to activities of insurgents, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, has said.
The governor, who backed the reintegration of surrendered insurgents, revealed that over 100,000 people had been killed in the 12-year insurgency ravaging the North-East, noting that many of those who surrendered were women and children who were forced to join the insurgents and trained to wield AK-47 rifle.
The governor added that those who had surrendered would be reintegrated back into society as “no law recommends the killing of surrendered insurgents.”
He also affirmed that victims of insurgency would be well taken care of, saying, “they will not be left behind.”
The governor who said he had been attacked by the insurgents about 50 times, promised to support victims of insurgents, especially those who lost their parents.
“I came to brief Mr President about the ongoing surrender by insurgents. I think, to me, and the greater majority of people of Borno State, this is a very good development.
“In the last 12 years, thousands of lives were lost, people have completely lost their means of livelihood. We have a total number of over 50,000 orphans and widows; these are official figures.
“The unofficial figures are more than this, and we were able to cultivate not more than three per cent of our total arable land because of the insurgency and right now, the whereabouts of not less than 10 per cent of people of Borno State is not known to all of us at all.
“This is a very serious matter and I think the report of the surrendering of the insurgents, to me in particular and to the greater people of Borno State, is a very welcomed development. Unless we want to continue with an endless war, I see no reason why we should reject those that are willing to surrender,” he said.
He explained that not all the surrendering insurgents could be categorised as criminals as many of them were also victims, forcefully conscripted into terrorism at very young ages.
He said it would be dangerous to reject those surrendering as this is the only way to end the 12-year security crisis in the state and the entire Northeast.
“Deepening internal democracy and social cohesion is a prelude to sustainable peace in any nation. Therefore, we’re not aware of the negative effects of this programme, but that is why we want to see the involvement of the Federal Government on a large scale.
“We are going back to Maiduguri to have wider consultations with the victims, the traditional rulers and the generality of the people of Borno State, the major stakeholders, including the Nigerian Army, the civilian JTF and others, to develop a framework that will ensure the sustainability of this programme.
“But mind you, among those that have surrendered, some are innocent, that were forcefully conscripted into this programme.
“Some are teenagers below the ages of 11, 12, who can handle AK-47 and there’s one very important thing that Nigerians need to understand; if this issue of Boko Haram, insurgency is not resolved, I believe it will never end because it is generational.
“Those that came out from the bush you can see one person has two wives, three wives in the bush; he’s having 10 children. These children are well trained to behave in such a manner. What is this manner? Carrying AK-47 and it’s a generation.
“Therefore, the best possible option for us to resolve this issue is by involving the Federal Government because the Federal Government is a major stakeholder. The President has agreed to provide the leadership,” he added.