Twenty pardoned family members of suspected Boko Haram insurgents were yesterday handed over to the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima by the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Restore Order in Maiduguri as part of the amnesty plan of President Goodluck Jonathan to the dreaded terrorist sect.
This was in response to an order of the President and the first phase of the programme, expected to be an ongoing exercise.
The freed detainees include six women and 14 boys (age between 9 and 14 years) were handed over to the governor by the JTF at the Government House Council Chambers. They are expected to be handed over to their families for rehabilitation and reintegration.
In a speech before the handover, the spokesman of the JTF, Lt. Col Sagir Musa, who was in the company of the Brigade Commander, 21 Brigade Maiduguri, Brig. Gen. Bamigboye said, on behalf of the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Saad Ibrahim “We are handing over the six women and 14 boys arrested so that they could be rehabilitated and reintegrated to become good citizens.”
Responding, Governor Kashim Shettima said, "We most sincerely thank Mr. President for his magnanimity. This marks a milestone in our quest for peace and to restore normalcy."
"We will do our part by ensuring that they are integrated into the larger society after rehabilitation to become better citizens. The Federal Government has shown commitment by releasing the wives and children of Boko Haram sect members under detention. We would admit the women into our development centres for rehabilitation while we are going to hand over the children to the ministry of women affairs and advertise for their parents to come and receive them after they might have written an undertaking to enroll them in schools," Shettima said.
The governor also said each parent that ensured her ward remains in school for 30 days would get N10,000 monthly.
He also urged the women to turn a new leaf and not to walk back to the wrong alley, while commending the security for keeping the detainees hale and hearty.
Responding to questions from journalists, some of the pardoned children revealed that their masters (sect members) have been using them mainly to gather information, especially to bring report on troop movement and behaviour of soldiers at duty post.
One of them said: "We watch out for the soldiers at their unit and report back to our bosses. We were reporting when soldiers are at ease or enjoying themselves and off guard, we equally report any large money movement to our bosses for their action."
He said that their bosses always attack the soldiers after learning that they were off-guard and that those with large amount of money, especially the traders were robbed.
The teenage boys also revealed that they were involved in razing some schools in Maiduguri, "We were given a keg of petrol by our bosses to set some schools ablaze within Maiduguri."
According to them, whenever they were sent on such errands, they were paid N5,000. They, however, said after they were arrested and interrogated by the men of the JTF, they volunteered information that led to the arrest or killing of their masters in gun battles.
In another development 17 women and 21 children have also been released to the Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam by the JTF in Damaturu .
Governor Gaidam promised to train them to acquire skills so they would become useful citizens in the future.