By Lawrence Audu
The Armed forces of Nigeria says the concept of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC) is that of a unique non-kinetic operation aimed at giving hope to ex-combatants who willingly give up their arms to embrace peace.
As the war on insurgency enters another more critical stage with the surrendering of Boko Haram fighters and other militant groups in the country, there is a greater need for deradicalisation, rehabilitation and re-integration of ex-combatants according to the Geneva convention.
Briefing newsmen at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, Coordinator, Defence Media Operations Major General John Enenche said, Operation Safe Corridor is a Defence Headquarters (DHQ)-led multi-agency humanitarian effort based on De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration (DRR) of ex-combatant Boko Haram members that willingly surrender, which was established in September 2015 and became operational in 2016.
“Operation SAFE CORRIDOR (OPSC) is guided by among other provisions such as International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws. It is being administered by 468 staff drawn from 17 organizations including the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN), Law Enforcement and Security Agencies, other Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including North East Development Commission (NEDC) as well as locals from Gombe, where the DRR camp is located.
“The scheme also enjoys widespread collaboration and support of local and international NGOs. The key implementation partners are United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department for International Development (DFID), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and North-East Regional Initiative (NERI).” He added.
General Enenche noted that Deradicalization is the first stage of the programme after medical screening including taking of DNA sample is conducted.
“It covers; psychotherapy, psycho-spiritual counseling, drug abuse intervention, art therapy, sports/recreation and introduction to western education to counter the BHT ideology.
“The rehabilitation package of the programme include; training in barbing, carpentry, cosmetology, farming, leatherworks, shoe making, tailoring and welding. They will be issued with starter packs (basic tools) and provided with takeoff funds.
“The Reintegration aspect of the DRR programme is the most delicate and longest phase that lasts beyond the camp. It entails transitional justice initiative involving family linkage with the assistance of IOM and UNICEF among others. Administration of Oath of Allegiance is also conducted at this stage. The panel is headed by a judge of the Federal High Court with members drawn for relevant agencies.” He added.
He said the concept and conduct of Operation SAFE CORRIDOR, it is not a process of assembling raw repentant ex-combatants to inject back into the society by the Military. Rather, it is an international best practice for conflict management backed by relevant laws with the concurrence of key stakeholders such as international organizations and MDAs among others.
In his remarks, the Coordination of Operation Safe Corridor, Major General Bamidele Shafa said before the commencement of Operation Safe Corridor, the federal government had put in place several programmes to ameliorate the sufferings of those affected by conflict in the country.
“Before the Northeast Development Commission came on stream, there was Presidential Committee on Northeast headed by Lt Gen TY Danjuma rtd, there is also the Victim Support Fund. All these are developmental programmes established to deal with the situation in the Northeast.
“And to further enhance government’s involvement in the Northeast, that was why a special ministry, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and social Development was created by the Federal Government”.
General Enenche observed that, since its inception in 2016, Operation Safe Corridor has admitted 893 ex-combatants for the Programme out of which 280 including 2 Chadians have been successfully reintegrated back into the society through their respective national and state authorities.
“Presently, there are 603 of them undergoing the DRR Programme and would be graduating by July 2020.
“The Operation is a success story as feedbacks from those reintegrated are positive. A particular one in Bama who learnt to barb as a vocation has successfully empowered 4 locals and is happily married with children.” He concluded.