I was privileged to visit an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp located in Jos, Plateau State, sometime last year, and what I saw was better imagined than experienced. The people living in the IPD camps were in dire straits, and one could not help, but pity them.
A few days later, I watched on TV with a dropped jaw how some repentant insurgents were dressed in white clothes and green caps and given VIP treatment. The same men were granted amnesty and were to undergo rehabilitation, would then be freed to lead lives as if they had never committed atrocious crimes before.
WHAT IS AMNESTY?
According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (Sixth Edition), amnesty is an official order by a government that allows a particular group of prisoners to go free.
Another definition by the same source is that amnesty is a period of time when you can admit to doing something illegal without being punished.
We have heard of amnesty in Nigeria as far back as 2011 when the Federal Government of Nigeria granted amnesty to the Niger Delta Militants. But this piece is centered on the current amnesty programme proposed by the Federal Government to be granted to repentant bandits and insurgents.
INSURGENTS/BANDITS VS THEIR VICTIMS
Reports have it that there are over two million people that have been displaced in Borno State alone. When we add the number in other states, we would have a mind-boggling number of people that have been made to flee their homes because of the activities of insurgents and bandits. These people have been displaced from their homes and are camped in IDPs Camps where there is a shortage of water and food, and no means of livelihood.
The above staggering figure is growing as the days go by, and you shouldn’t be shocked to learn that we currently have millions of IDPs in the country. This is as a result of the growing violence in some parts of the country, most especially the northeastern and some parts of the north central regions.
These innocent citizens of this great nation have been made IDPs as a result of the heinous activities of insurgents and bandits. They are going through these afflictions not because of any crime they have committed, but because of something they had no control over whatsoever.
Operation Safe Corridor, a multi-agency humanitarian effort was launched by the Federal Government in 2016 as an amnesty for insurgents and bandits aimed at De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation, and Re-Integration (DRR) of former members of the same insurgents that have unleashed nothing, but terror and had made life unendurable for the people for over 10 years. It is expected that the same group of people should be assimilated back into the society they had tried to destroy.
As of July 2020, 881 repentant former terrorists have been released since the launch of the programme.
So far, Millions of Naira have been used to rehabilitate the same set of people that are responsible for truncating the lives of thousands of people and have displaced millions of people. They have done nothing but maimed, raped, and destroyed innocent lives and properties. It is sad to note that the Federal Government is enabling the culprits to the detriment of millions of their innocent victims.
DO INSURGENTS AND BANDITS DESERVE AMNESTY?
Before the country grants these groups of people amnesty, there are questions we need to address. Questions like:
- How are their victims expected to feel when they see people that have made life unbearable being celebrated?
- Will giving them amnesty change the fact that they have committed heinous crimes against humanity?
- What does the country stands to gain in granting amnesty to the same people who have thrown the country into jeopardy?
- Can the repentant insurgents lead normal lives without relapsing to crimes?
- Do we now celebrate crime to the detriment of the lives of innocent people?
- Will the amnesty bring an end to insurgency and banditry in Nigeria?
- Isn’t it an irony that graduates earn thirty thousand Naira as stipends under the NPower programme while insurgents and bandits get more?
Currently, a bill is being sponsored by the immediate past governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam, who is now the Senator representing Yobe East Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
The bill which has already scaled through the first reading is proposing that insurgents should be made beneficiaries of Presidential Amnesty just like the Niger Delta Militants. The bill also seeks to give immediate backing for repentant insurgents to be integrated back into society.
Instead of spending so much money to rehabilitate bandits and insurgents, the Federal Government should channel the same finances towards upgrading the lives of IDPs. These are people that are suffering not for any offence, but for the fact that the system has failed them completely. Their lives and sources of livelihoods have been crushed under the wheels of insecurities and the failure of those who have sworn to protect them.
Another thing is for the government to channel the funds into creating more jobs for the youths. It’s usually frustrating when one graduates and stays for years without a job. This makes the graduate prone to joining social vices like insurgents and banditry.
Why are we surprised that banditry and insurgence are escalating in Nigeria?
The government is making it look like it pays more to be a criminal than to be an honest person in the country.
Insurgents and bandits should be made to pay for their crimes and not be granted amnesty.
I look at all these and do not have an option, but call it the Nigerian way.
Roselyn Sho – Olajide works with an Audit Firm in Jos, Plateau State. She loves reading and writing and can be reached via email@example.com