Op Safe Corridor, B’Haram and the 2019 Free Polls in N’East

By Nkiru Emeka-Nwankpa on March 18, 2019

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Maj.Gen. Bamidele Shafa

A major upset recorded in the just-concluded general elections was the massive voting by residents of the insurgency-hit North East which disproved cynics about the success of the counter-terrorism operations in the region. It was a far-cry from the 2015 elections which excluded such huge voters because 27 local government councils in the frontline States were under Boko Halights the positive impact of the military operations in the region where the armed forces under the nation’s military high command led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin and the service chiefs has continued to turn the table against Boko Haram.

Another report was that over 2,000 former Boko Haram fighters have embraced Federal Government’s De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Re-integration (DRR) programme code-named Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC). The camp is in Mallam Sidi, a quiet location about 32 km to Gombe. 

Analysts affirm that the DRR programme is on sound footing under its charismatic pioneer Coordinator, Major General Bamidele Shafa leading 375 highly-dedicated staff mobilized from 13 key agencies such as the Office of the National Security Adviser, Prisons, Police, DSS, Immigration, NDLEA, NEMA, National Identity Management Commission, Armed Forces, NOA, NYSC, NDE and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

Keen observers have attributed the degrading of the sect’s fighting capacity resulting in the just-concluded hitch-free elections in the region, to the strategic impact of Op Safe Corridor fuelling suggestions that the programme should be sustained to intensify the attainment of peace, law and order in the region.

It will be recalled that in 2015, the President set the ball rolling by raising a national committee chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin with the Governors of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Inspector General of Police, a Director from Office of the National Security Adviser, Director General State Security Service, Chief of Defence Intelligence and the Director General National Emergency Management Agency, as members. 

The DRR is a 52-week programme emanating from a National Security Council meeting in September 2015 conceived as a safe passage for repentant insurgents to escape from hiding. It is a joint multi-national humanitarian operation in line with international humanitarian and human rights laws and the Nigerian constitution.

The government has ruthlessly executed the DRR with astonishing efficiency. 

Without firing a single shot, it has broken the ranks of Boko Haram with the defection of over 2,000 former members thereby breaking the fighting will of the sect thereby generating kudos to the CDS and his patriotic team led by Maj Gen Shafa, Nigerian Army’s most senior intelligence officer and Director of Operations at the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) for attaining its huge success. Colonel Beyidi Martins is the Camp Commandant.  

The biggestmandant.  

The biggest thanks, they said, go to President Buhari for initiating the innovative idea and carefully assembling the crack team to execute the mission with astonishing efficiency. They urged the handlers to institute appropriate measures capable of dispelling possible misgivings driven by insufficient facts about the programme.

They said the DRR has effectively broken the ranks of Boko Haram leading it to seek refuge in the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The programme has created a robust tracking technology that blocks any contact between Boko Haram and the former insurgents who underwent de-radicalization therapies and are trained in vocational skills namely: shoe making, leather works, farming, poultry, welding, tailoring, soap making and cosmetology, carpentry, barbing, furniture, etc.

Upon graduation, they are transferred to their states for enrollment into NDE Skills Acquisition centers for further training but not after taking oaths of allegiance before a Sharia or High Court to be law-abiding citizens. They undergo comprehensive medical screening and are profiled by the United Nations International Organization for Migrations (IOM), a reputable international stakeholder in the programme.  

Psychotherapy, psycho-spiritual counseling, drug, western education, art therapy and other critical intervention therapies are conducted for them by specialist teachers, counselors, clergies, psychologists, social workers, drug rehabilitation specialists, dramatists and interpreters.

To enhance their health, promote cordial interactions in the Camp and nullify Boko Haram’s ideology towards boosting their self esteem, the handlers provide for them friendly games, indoor-outdoor sports and recreation facilities such as football field, volleyball court, table tennis and driveway for jogging.

Their DNA samples are deposited at DNA Laboratory of the Defence Headquarters. With their biometrics in the National Identity Card System, they are issued specially-coded identity cards after detailed debriefing by the Camp Intelligence Cell for future re-integration and security purposes. 

Col. Martins disclosed that so far, 260 former insurgents comprising the pilot six in long detention for associating with the sect have been treated. Another 95 who graduated in February 2018 were transferred to their states-Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno and Yobe fully re-integrated and re-settled. Twenty-four minors (within ages 13 and 18) were released to UNICEF for onward transmission to their foster parents.  

The last 150 who graduated on November 24, 2018, are still in the camp owing to resurgent attacks in the North East but will be released to their states which expressed willingness to receive them as the situation improves.  

Without firing a shot, over 2,000 have dumped the sect. The Armed Forces of Nigeria under the visionary Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin have indeed turned the table against Boko Haram. The programme has gained so much traction that it is now highly rated as one of Nigeria’s major contributions to global peace, security and order as Boko Haram’s fighting will continues to wane. 

The Coordinator, Maj. Gen. Bamidele Shafa explained that modern warfare approach had proved that wars are won better and faster by the efficacy of war strategy rather than weapons deployment, pointing out that the strategy deployed to break the fighting will of the enemy is what eventually wins the war.

According to him, Op Safe Corridor since September 2015 remained one of Federal Government’s most effective and efficacious strategies to win the war against Boko Haram towards restoring peace and order in the North East   and as a result of which over 2,000 former Boko Haram fighters have willingly surrendered and repented thereby leaving the sect in the cold.

He further disclosed that a large number of the boys were found to have been conscripted into the sect waiting to free themselves from the shackles of the insurgents.

‘’We discovered by due intelligence, advanced profiling and comprehensive medical screening that majority of the set who are still in the Camp were conscripted and drugged. So when the announcement went out that the Federal Government had set up Op Safe Corridor in September 2015, they dumped Boko Haram and embraced the DRR which they have consistently hailed as a life-time opportunity to be decent citizens. Over 2,000 of the boys have surrendered. 

‘’What makes their situation more intriguing is the combined show of remorse for their past bad conduct and their enthusiasm to gather the pieces of their almost shattered lives. It is a Federal Government’s soft strategy and soft approach to reduce the fighting will of Boko Haram. We are glad that the objectives of the programme are being met which primarily is to scuttle and diminish their fighting chance. 

‘’It is a strategy that is working which should be sustained because it has been proved the world over that wars are never won on the battle field; wars are won on the table and what also matters is the efficacy of strategies that you bring to break the fighting will of the enemy.

‘’As a war commander, if you wake up one day and you look at your back and the soldiers are not there, you will have no other option than quit. That is elementary knowledge’’, Maj Gen. Shafa said.

Capt Ibrahim Jega, national officer of the UN’s International Organization for Migrations (IOM) described his agency as very flexible in the post-conflict intervention engagement, saying: ‘’What IOM actually saw was the part that emphasized the soft approach using the DRR model as a post-conflict answer. The organization thinks that other non-military approaches could be evolved, nurtured and executed as a holistic approach to complementing the military approach in line with international best practices. The DRR is a major non-military approach to the conflict resolution process which some prefer to call winning the hearts and minds of the people.

‘’Essentially, it is to promote surrender as the best possible option to combatants and non-state actors to come out of the bush; to tell them that they are not meant to die in the bush fighting, it is a safe corridor for them to walk in and surrender thereby de-populating the sect and deplete their fighting chance.

‘’It aims at solving critical problems such as the de-radicalization programme deploying its various support services in collaboration with private and public donor agencies and governments such as the U.K, U.S, France and lately Netherlands.

‘’The donors are actually looking forward to a situation whereby the DRR graduates become shining examples of the DRR process of intervention, the graduates even get a lifeline to prove to those still fighting in the bush that there is a better life than fighting. It is a counter-radicalization offensive which has worked effectively elsewhere’’, Capt Jega explained. 



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Posted on March, 18 2019

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