Borno State Governor Babagana Umara Zulum has said the surrender of Boko Haram fighters had put the state in what he called two extremely difficult situations.
The governor spoke at the weekend in Bama and Gwoza, where he also addressed military officers and community leaders.
He said the situation required diverse stakeholders, including representatives of attacked communities, to work together and review the merits and the demerits of the surrender to enable them agree on a framework for a permanent solution.
Zulum travelled to Gwoza and Bama local government areas for humanitarian and developmental activities before addressing military commanders at the Brigades in Gwoza and Bama, as well as community leaders at the palaces of the Emir of Gwoza and Shehu of Bama. The governor delivered the same message in both towns.
“We (in Borno) are in a very difficult situation over the ongoing surrender by insurgents. We have to critically look between two extreme conditions and decide our future.
“We have to choose between an endless war or to cautiously accept the surrendered terrorists, which is really painful and difficult for anyone that has lost loved ones, difficult for all of us and even for the military, whose colleagues have died, and for volunteers.
“No one would find it easy to accept killers of his or her parents, children and other loved ones.
“In the last 12 years, we have been in this war, and we have lost thousands of fellow citizens. We don’t know the whereabouts of thousands of others: we don’t know whether they are alive or dead.
“In these 12 years, millions have been made homeless and many wealthy farmers, transporters and others have been rendered poor. In these years, we were able to cultivate maybe around 3 per cent of the arable land. As a result, our people became dependent on food aid amid donor fatigue and potential food insecurity.
“In fact, the repercussions of the Boko Haram crisis are enormous. As someone who has been involved with assessment of the impacts and rebuilding efforts in the last seven years, I am in position to know the endless negative impact the Boko Haram has made in Borno,” Zulum said.
The governor said accepting Boko Haram has the risk of seriously offending the feelings of victims with the potential of generating civil rebellion.
He noted that there is also the risk that if Boko Haram fighters willing to surrender are rejected, they could join the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) to swell the ranks of fighters in the bush and the path of peace becomes narrowed.
“While travelling to Gwoza and Bama, I saw many people cultivating their farmlands by the roadside. This is an indication of emerging peace, which we have to sustain in order to salvage our people. However, like I said, we must come together to carefully analyse the two extremes and come up with a workable framework,” Zulum said.
The governor promised to engage in high-level consultations with President Muhammadu Buhari, the Service Chiefs, resident security heads, traditional rulers, elders and religious leaders, national and state lawmakers, academics and other stakeholders, particularly victims of the crimes perpetrated by the insurgents, for them to critically review the situation and come up with a framework on how to ensure lasting peace.
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