Rehabilitation as a tool for counter-terrorism in Nigeria.

Terrorism is a global epidemic and malaise, that is spreading like wildfire across many parts of the world. The phenomenon arises as a result of politico-religious indoctrination among certain believers. Every religion, however, comes with peace, so they say, be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and host of others. But crooked ideologies never cease to emanate from religious extremists who have for long associated with Islam in many parts of the world. Without mincing words, they have twisted the narratives of what their religion entails through falsehood and unbalanced ideologies. This act  is not limited to Middle East or Asian countries: it has become a human induced disaster and cataclysmic salvo. The insurgency has claimed thousands of lives in the northern part of the country since 2009. As a response to this act of terrorism, Nigerian troops have launched series of offensive, lethal and punitive counter terrorism activities, in a bid to protect the country, just as the United States continues to launch series of attacks on terrorist groups across the world.

In Nigeria, the measure is yielding positive results but, not enough to curb the dastardly act. This is to say, without gainsaying that, a lot of youths in the North have continued to find their way into the group as a result of poor orientation. They are not to be blamed; as terrorism is a state of the mind. That is why I consider the Bill on the rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram terrorists as very apt but controversial. Rehabilitation of terrorists is a new field of counter terrorism that is yet to be fully embraced by many countries of the world. It is a non-lethal, non-punitive measure to rehabilitate terrorists, making them to change from the dangerous acts and hence, embrace peace. It is safe to say that the United Nations is yet to affirm its feasibility. But USA, Singapore, Iraq and so on have given it an attempt. On some broader classifications, rehabilitation includes religious, physiological, social and vocational rehabilitation. Out of these, religious rehabilitation is the most crucial stage. It is important because the misconception about religion is a trigger to terrorism.

Thousands of Islamist radicals hold a strong belief that has over the years escalated into extremism, barbarism and war. It is therefore a hard nut to crack. This implies that a Sunni terrorist needs a Sunni scholar to school him on the real doctrines of Islam. How terrorism and act of killings is against the will of God and maintaining a non-recreant quality in the mind of the terrorists is the function of religious rehabilitation. After this, a rehabilitated terrorist needs psychological transformation. How do we counsel a dreaded group of people who view the world in a radical form? Their mind is stone-hearted by default. Their conscience is dead and clemency has eluded their reasoning faculty. Psychological rehabilitation answers this by matching a terrorist to a befitting counsellor. The counsellor ensures the killer/terrorist is made to give up the antisocial behaviour. In order to acquire firsthand information about the hide out of the other members, torture, punishment must be discouraged.

Linking the terrorists into the community is another stage which is embedded in social rehabilitation. To avoid stigmatization, the rehabilitation body needs to follow up repentant terrorists in terms of their activities, their interrelations with people, among others. Before the full reintegration back into the society, efforts that would distant them from meeting the terrorists in the future are avoided. Just like the religious rehabilitation; educational or vocational rehabilitation has the strength of absorbing them into educational institutions. So far, the root cause of the terrorism act is illiteracy and ignorance. Education remains a tool to liberate repentant terrorists from becoming useless even after the rehabilitation.

In this same way, Singapore Rehabilitation center underwent a holistic rehabilitation to the detainees of Jemaah Islamiyah held by the Internal Security Department of the country. Apart from religious impartation to the terrorists, psychological gains were enjoyed by the terrorists. They were taught the doctrine as established by the Muslim Holy Books as opposed to their radical beliefs and many of the repentant terrorists departed from the heinous acts.

In a multicultural society, people are already divided along religious, ethnic and political borders. That is why the quest for rehabilitation by the senator representing Yobe East Senatorial District, Ibrahim Geideam, is greeted with heated debates. The debates were doubtful about the credibility of the repentant Boko Haram, who had one time in their life time sent innocent Nigerians to the journey of no return. They have been largely responsible for the increase in the numbers of IDP camps in the country and of course, the death of gallant soldiers at the battle field. How do we trust them? Won’t they simply go back to the same act? and so on. In reality, the northern part of the country is impoverished with illiteracy, religious extremism, and or sort of barbaric activities. Out of the Poor citizens in Nigeria, 87% reside in the North. Their Youths are easily manipulated with cheap ideologies as a result of limited access to quality education and profitable vocation.

This is why the Emir of Kano issued a strong warning to the North about the imminent calamity that might befall the region. Despite having some of their scholars in positions of authority across the nooks and crannies of the country, there seems to be no hope for incoming generations in the region.

It was out of wisdom that the governor of Kano State, Umar Ganduje, declared illegal, the act of street begging by the Al-majaris in the State. The governor, who equally belong to the category of Northern elites knows the implications of the state of despair in the North, which might make the region inhabitable in near future. Like Ganduje, like Geideam (the senator who sponsored the bill). Geideam envisages northern states whose insecurity problems can be nipped in the bud in non-violent ways. He equally believes that the north can be purified strategically from terrorism by using wisdom and possibly send a signal to other terrorists that there is indeed a room for repentance and forgiveness of sins. In his philosophy which I equally agree with, rehabilitation being an emerging field in defense and security of a territory can be adopted in a strategic manner which the article have emphasided. If the rehabilitation strategy as proposed by the Senator can sail through, Nigeria would be approached by other countries facing various forms of terrorism, on its working mechanism and a rallying point for counter-terrorism acts.

In concord with that, religious scholars, academia and politicians must be ready to emancipate the people from shackles of religious indoctrinations that are precursor to terrorism. Since terrorism is a state of mind, the mind of the terrorist needs to be filled with ideologies that are non-violent, non-destructive and non-lethal. But for the sake of justification, the fallen soldiers and IDPs need a certain bill to alleviate their sufferings. If those who meted out injuries and death on innocent Nigerians can be granted mercy and reintegrated into the society in the name of rehabilitation, then the wounded lions deserve better. They too deserve something pleasant.

  • Adeagbo writes in from Akure via
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