GOVERNOR Babagana Zulum of Borno State said yesterday that Boko Haram insurgents surrendering to troops should not be rejected by the society, saying most of them were conscripted into insurgency against their will.
He also said the whereabouts of not less than ten percent of the population of indigenes of the state were unknown as a result of insurgency.
Borno State, which is in the Northeast, has a total population of 5.86 million people according to 2016 population census..
The governor also said over 100,000 indigenes of the state had been killed since the outbreak of insurgency, while at least 2,600 insurgents had surrendered.
Governor Zulum, who stated this while briefing State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said he discussed the report of the surrendering of insurgents with the President, since he didn’t see any reason those who surrendered should be rejected.
According to him, 2,600 bandits, who have already surrendered, their wives and children, are already in custody of the state.
He said among those that surrendered were innocent people who were forcibly conscripted to join the Boko Haram sect, while some were teenagers.
While declaring total support for the insurgents that had surrendered, Zulum said the state government was not contemplating giving repentant terrorists any dime to surrender.
The governor, who said he had been attacked by the insurgents about 50 times, also promised to support the victims of the insurgents, especially those whose parents were killed.
He said: “I came to brief Mr. President over the ongoing surrender by insurgents. I think, to me, and to 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.
‘’We are 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 shall reject those that are willing to surrender.
“I came to brief Mr. President on this matter and Mr. President has given my humble-self and the people of Borno State the assurances of his continued support in this direction, so that this matter can be resolved amicably.
“Deepening internal democracy and social cohesion is a prelude to sustainable peace in any nation. Therefore, we’re not unaware of the negative effects of this programme, but that is why we want to see the involvement of the federal government in a large scale.
“We are going back to Maiduguri to have wider consultations with the victims themselves, 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 sustainability of this programme.”
“We are not unmindful of this issue, it’s not a small issue because we are not just saying that those that have surrendered shall be reintegrated into the society very soon, no.
“But mind you, among those that have surrendered, some are innocent, as they were forcibly conscripted into insurgency.
“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 a generation.