The Nigerian Army has handed over 566 underaged persons, including breastfeeding children and mothers to the Borno Government after clearing them of being Boko Haram terrorists. Brig.-Gen. Victor Ezugwu, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, handed over those held in protective custody to Gov. Kashim Shettima at a ceremony in Maiduguri on Friday. Ezugwu said that the gesture was aimed at ensuring that just and innocent Nigerians did not suffer for the atrocities committed by others.
“It is indeed my pleasure to address this important audience this afternon on the occasion of the handover of underaged and breastfeeding mothers arrested during operations from Boko Haram camps to the Borno Government. “I am happy to state here that for record purpose this is the fourth time we are conducting such an exercise since I took over command of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army,” Ezugwu said. According to him, this is a clear demonstration of the passionate spirit demonstrated by the Army Headquarters toward ensuring that the innocent Nigerians do not suffer for the atrocities committed by the terrorists.
“May I use this opportunity to state that the counter insurgency operation being conducted by all the military formations in the North-East is not meant to create hardship for people”. Ezugwu said that the military had respect for the fundamental human right for all suspects in its operations. “These underaged persons we are releasing today were not detained as suspects or accused persons. “But held in protective custody to prevent them from being radicalised and indoctrinated for use as suicide bombers and other evil antics of the terrorists,” he said. He said that the detainees, included 149 breastfeeding mothers, 355 breastfeeding children and 62 children. While receiving them, Shettima thanked the military for the gesture, and promised proper care for them.
The governor said his administration’s continued care for families of Boko Haram insurgents was to break their cycle of violence and secure the future of the state. “What is of importance we should all note, is that an average male member of the Boko Haram has one great wish and that wish is for his son or daughter to inherit his doctrine of violence. “The insurgents seriously take to child bearing as a strategy of not only multiplying their numbers but also producing children they hope, will continue from where their fathers stop in violent killings as their own form of worship. “The goal of Boko Haram fathers is that even if they are killed by our armed forces, they want to bequeath to us, a future of violence in the state, a future of violence in the North-East and a violent future for our country.” He said government effort in providing care for the children was to break the culture of violence among the children.
“Our ultimate aim in taking custody of families of insurgents is to cut the cycle of violence so as to secure the future of the state. “Our aim is to give education to the children of the insurgents so that these children will grow to despise the values and doctrines their parents lived and preached. “The children will not be trained with any element of hate for their parents, they won’t even be told about the ways of their parents so that they don’t grow with deflated self esteem,” Shettima said. He added these children would be raised like every other child, they will be raised to love and not to hate like their parents wished for them. “They will be trained to safe lives and contribute to building and growing communities not to take lives and destroy communities like their parents would wish. “This is why we are determined to take care of these children. I am speaking in English knowing that they don’t hear what I am saying because we don’t want them to have low self-esteem.
“We will train them to have big dreams and to pursue their dreams of becoming productive citizens. “Some of these children will be future leaders, many will be doctors, engineers, lawyers and some may even grow to join the military if they choose to. “They will insha Allah, contribute to nation building and part of the future of the state. We must love and care for each other. We have witnessed so much hatred and violence. “Our hearts have been too consumed by agony. We must use the remaining space in our hearts to love and to share love and brotherhood”. Shettima also explained that majority of the family members have been found to be innocent of the violence of the Boko Haram insurgents contrary to the wish of some members of the public who want the sins of insurgents meted on their families.