Borno State Government has flagged off a public campaign programme designed to reconcile and reintegrate repentant Boko-Haram elements.
The programme, funded by European Union, EU, is being executed in collaboration with UNICEF, UNDP, and IOM.
Speaking at the flag-off ceremony at the Shehu of Borno Palace on Wednesday in Maiduguri, the State Commissioner of Information and Culture, Babakura Abba-Jato, said there is the need to accept the repentant insurgents, particularly women and children who are also victims that were forced to stay with the insurgents.
Mr Abba-Jato said investigation showed that majority of the 6,000 that surrendered were women and children and some men in communities occupied by the insurgency who were forced to stay and farm for the insurgents.
“We also have those that carry arms that are being profiled by the authorities in line with International laws relating to such development,” Mr Abba-Jato said.
He explained that for now, the Ministry of Women Affairs is handling the affected women and children.
In her remarks, the Commissioner of Women Affairs, Zuwaira Gambo, who spoke on women and children as the worst affected by the insurgency and other conflicts, urged for public support in ensuring that they are reintegrated.
In her speech, the UNICEF Maiduguri Chief of Field Office, Phuong Nguyen, who also pleaded support for the reconciliation and reintegration programme, stressed the need for active involvement of the traditional institution.
“We are here again today to solicit your support as the state government launches the process of reintegration for children who were formerly linked to armed groups and recruited by non-state security providers.
“Your royal highness, these are our children, neighbours, brothers and sisters who were caught on one side of the conflict.
“Many of them remained in territories formerly controlled by non-state armed groups and exploited as labourers, cooks, armour carriers, spies and farm hands. Others were forcefully married and tortured.
“There is no doubt that over the years, these boy and girls have experienced harrowing times and subjected to multiple violations of their human rights,” Nguyen said.
While nothing that the spate of children surrendering has elicited mixed reactions from various quarters, Nguyen said the public owe each boy or girl that surrendered the opportunity to recover and communities to heal.
“We are counting on your support and influence in Mosques and communities on the importance of forgiveness and dialogue.
“UNICEF supports the state government in its resolve to see every child survive these challenging times.
“UNICEF will continue to work with the state government until every child is reached with education and vocation opportunities as well as the psychosocial support that they need to restart their lives and contribute to their communities,” Nguyen said.
In his remarks, the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Umar-Garbai, lauded the initiative and assured of the traditional institution support for its success.