The Nigerian military commander said at least 51,000 Boko Haram militants and their families have surrendered in the country’s northeast in the first three months of this year.
Major General Chris Moses said on Tuesday that the mass surrender of the rebels was a sign that Nigerian security forces were winning a 13-year struggle against Boko Haram. But some analysts remain skeptical.
Musa, the commander of Operation Hadin Kai, announced this to reporters in Abuja on Tuesday. He said that among those who surrendered were 11,000 people who were enslaved by the rebels, created by them or born in them.
Musa said that he surrendered because of successful military operations. He spoke to a Lagos-based television show on Monday.
“We want to reassure the public that we are doing our best and that we are working together because this operation is for Nigeria, this is a Nigerian war,” Moses said.
The army commander said the death of Boko Haram sect leader Abubakar Shekau also played a role. Shekau was declared killed in May 2021 during a fight with the splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
According to the country’s 2016 Safe Corridor plan, which gives recruits a voluntary exit from Boko Haram, many defectors can lead normal civilian lives. But analysts say the program could pose risks if not managed properly.
Darlington Abdullahi, a retired air commander, said if reunification was not done properly, problems could emerge.
“There is a possibility that they may go back to the kind of activities they were engaged in earlier,” Abdullahi said.
The Safe Corridor program is part of a national strategy to reduce terrorist activity in the country’s northeast, but critics argue it is offering an amnesty to terrorists.
Musa said the surrendered terrorists were being kept in a camp in Maiduguri and would be closely monitored before going back to their communities.
But Abdullahi said changing his ideologies would not be easy.
“For them to fit into the larger society, they have to change their mindset,” Abullahi said. “They should start behaving like normal people. They should start feeling that they belong to the society.”
Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the camp in Borno state during his two-day visit to Nigeria and praised the reunification program.