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Most ‘Repentant Boko Haram Terrorists’ are Victims of Terrorism—Gambo

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Maureen Okpe

The Commissioner for Women Affairs Borno State Hajia Zuwaira Gambo has explained that the use of the term ‘repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ to describe the De-Radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration programme of the Federal Government is erroneous in that majority of the beneficiaries are victims of terrorism. 

Gambo made this clarification at the weekend at a National Forum on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism,  organised in Abuja by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in partnership with UN Women and the Government of Japan.

According to her, the idea of de-radicalisation and reintegration of members of Boko haram by the Nigerian government has been misunderstood by a larger number of the public, as a result of communication gap between the government and the public.

She further explained that “some of the persons reintegrated are victims who had no part to play but were arrested in the course of security checks by the military as they were caught at the wrong time in a wrong place”.

Gambo said ” because they have spent time in detention between two to five years, there is need for rehabilitation, counselling and socio- psychological support.

“We are not saying that there are not some people who have partaken in destruction of lives and properties but these people are in the minority and you also have to understand that these set of people joined involuntarily as they are forced to do so.”

To this end, the commissioner called for effective Strategic Communications and disclosed that the idea was to also create an awareness to other members that if they down arms they have a chance of being accepted into the community but that the term ‘repentant Boko Haram terrorists’ gives wrong signals to members of the public, especially victims of terrorism.

L-R; Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Mrs. Asmau Adamu; Special Adviser Technical to the Minister of Women Afairs, Princess Jummai Idoniji; Project Coordination Search for Common Ground, Ms. Virginia Edeh; Commissioner Ministry of Women Affairs and Social development Borno State, Hajia Zuwaira Gambo; Special Adviser National Human Right Commission, Mr. Benedict Agu, During the National Forum on Preventing Violent Extremism in Abuja

Speaking, the Executive Secretary of  National Human Right ( NHRC), Mr. Tony Ojukwu,  stated that  violent extremism is the most wide spread human rights abuse which is a fundamental barrier to socio economic and political empowerment of women and girls.

Ojukwu who was represented by the Senior Assistant to the Executive Secretary Human Rights Commission and Head Monitoring Department,  Benedict Agu, bemoaned the alarming increase on violence against women and girls adding that they have the right to live free from violence and attaining their full potential.

“The abuse and exploitation of the rights of women and girls are contrary to the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended, the universal  Declaration of human Rights, amongst other international instruments.

“These instruments provide for the protection of  women rights and prevention of violent extremism without any discrimination, in other words they affirm women need to be protected on equal terms with men, “he said.

In the same vein, the Minister of Women Affairs, Ms. Pauline Tallen, represented by the Special Assistant Technical to the Minister,  Princess Jummai Idonije, stressed that the  violence perpetrated against women cuts across health, politics, agriculture, and  social-cultural amongst others sectors of the country.

Tallen stated that ” though the narrative is changing by inclusiveness of women in crucial decision making, more targeted effort need to be carried out  as the role of women in peace keeping cannot be overemphasized, women play a crucial role in the society.”

Also,  Media Expert and Facilitator, Mr. Senator Iroegbu, in his presentation on the ‘Role of Media in Amplifying Women’s Voices in Countering Violent Extremism’,  noted that the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) recognised the key roles of women and girls  to the success of the Policy Framework and National Action Plan to PCVE in Nigeria.

Iroegbu however, stressed that without the media amplifying the roles played by women it may not be effective as the media would help to educate, inform and set agenda for both the government members of the public on these issues.

Quoting the United Nations Plan to Action on PCVE, he stated that “it is important to engage women and girls at the local level as sources of influence within families and communities to build resilience and localized, credible, and effective responses to violent extremism and also Involve women and girls in mainstreaming gender in community engagement with community-oriented policing efforts for CVE, through genuine partnerships based on trust and the pursuit of common goals.”

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