June 8, 2023

The United States Government says it is assisting Nigeria in rehabilitating repentant terrorists as part of a broader joint Nigeria and US strategy to counter violent extremism.

The US Embassy to Nigeria said this in response to an email by Saturday PUNCH on Friday. It said it was assisting Nigeria through the International Organisation for Migration.

The email read in part, “The US government assists the Government of Nigeria’s Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration programme through the International Organisation for Migration – which supports Nigeria’s Operation Safe Corridor programme to carry out DDRR of repentant and eligible ex-combatants who were formerly affiliated with a terrorist organisation.”

It said the 601 repentant terrorists who recently graduated from Operation Safe Corridor in Gombe State had not yet been re-integrated into society.The US said the repentant terrorists would be reintegrated in batches in the near future.

The email further read, “According to our understanding, 601 individuals who were formerly affiliated with a terrorist organisation recently graduated from Operation Safe Corridor last month following successful completion of the de-radicalisation and rehabilitation programme in Gombe Camp.

“We understand that these men have not been released to communities yet and are still awaiting transfer to a rehabilitation centre in Maiduguri. They are to be transferred in batches in the very near future.

“The United States has supported Nigeria’s efforts toward effective disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of former affiliates as an important element of the broader joint Nigerian and US strategy to counter violent extremism.”

A large section of Nigerians had condemned the plan of the Federal Govt to reintegrate repentant terrorists into society while millions of victims of terrorism remain displaced.The Borno State Commissioner for Informat-ion, Babakura Jatau, had told Sunday PUNCH in July that only about 10 per cent of the repentant terrorists were actually fighters while the rest were either children or accomplices.

Meanwhile, rights group, Amnesty International, says the US Government has continued to sell weapons to Nigeria despite the rights abuses being perpetrated by the Nigerian military.The Deputy Director for Advocacy and Government Relations for Amnesty International USA, Adotei Akwei, said this in an email interview with The PUNCH.

In January 2019, Akwei had written a letter to the foreign relations committees in the US Congress calling for the implementation of the Leahy Law in Nigeria due to the high number of human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.

The Leahy Law is an American human rights law that prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that violate human rights with impunity.

However, Akwei told The PUNCH that one year after Amnesty wrote the letter, that the US authorities had continued to sell weapons to Nigeria in contravention of the Leahy Law.He said the government of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), had failed to address human rights violations.

Responding to a question, he said, “The short answer is no, we have not seen the Buhari government implement any form of credible accountability for human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces since we sent our letter and we have not seen the USG (US Government) take the necessary action of enforcing the Leahy Law in response to the continued impunity being enjoyed by the Nigerian security forces.”

Akwei had in a letter signed on behalf of Amnesty said the Nigerian military was fond of attacking unarmed civilians.

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