Haruna Alhaji Bello, a victim of Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State, has asked the government to stop the rehabilitation of terrorists, describing it as unfair to the people they had traumatized.
Bello, an indigene of Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State, was a victim of Boko Haram insurgency in 2014, when he lost his wife but managed to escape.
Speaking to THE WHISTLER in an interview, he said: “What the government is doing is unfair. They pardoned and embraced the Boko Haram insurgents who invaded and destroyed our lives. Whenever they come out of the forests and repent, the government will pardon them.
“And not only that, they even embrace them back into the society and set up businesses for them, not minding how we the victims feel or how we fare. No one is talking about us.”
Bello said he left Gwoza about 8 years ago after Boko Haram attacked his family and came to Abuja to start a new life. He makes a living as a cab driver plying Gwagwalada to Area 1.
He said he’s not happy with how the Federal Government allegedly neglected victims of Boko Haram insurgency who lost loved ones, homes and properties but is making life comfortable for the insurgents.
He said, “Sometimes I feel tired of life that I don’t know what to do. I lost one of my wives to the Boko Haram insurgency, while my other wife developed High Blood Pressure (HBP) due to the trauma surrounding the insurgency, which caused so many complications that led to her death while giving birth.
“All these made me lose interest in life, and now all I do is transport passengers from Gwagwalada to Area 1 to earn a means of livelihood. The little I get, I send to my mother for feeding and to also pay my children’s school fees. Whenever I feel tired, I find somewhere, lie down and smoke weed to ease off my worries.”
Bello said he started smoking weed because of the trauma he was going through. “What pains me most is the fact that we, the victims, are the ones losing. We have lost our loved ones, got our homes burnt rendering us homeless, and our hometown captured by the same insurgents who are now being forgiven by the government on a daily basis. I don’t want to even mention how much of our belongings got carted away by Boko Haram. We are left with nothing but pain and misery.
“Here we are suffering as a result of all these, wallowing in poverty. But the perpetrators are being given money to start up businesses after being pardoned, with all that they did to us. Nobody has come out to help us with our predicament. We are here suffering for nothing, we pay children’s school fees, feed ourselves while trying to get back on our feet.”
Bello, while recounting the Boko Haram attack that drove him out of Gwoza, said, “It all started that fateful day when Boko Haram invaded our land, Gwoza. People started running helter-skelter, running to neighbouring towns, villages, and mountains in search of shelter from the doom that lay ahead of us.
“I still remember vividly, it was one morning, getting to noon, during the regime of president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, when the military personnel stationed around the hills and mountains sent signals to their fellows, informing them that Boko haram had invaded Gwoza and was about to take over the entire town.
“Not quite long, we started hearing gunshots emanating from every corner, with Boko Haram shooting sporadically wounding and killing people. There was also the drones of the military jets hovering over houses, as they moved about bombing the insurgents who were also trying to retaliate with gunshots. Within the twinkle of an eye my Gwoza suddenly turned into a battlefield. So many chaotic activities were on ground as residents tried to flee the town.
“My wives and kids were all running out of our house into the street, with the aim of running away to a neighbouring town for safety, when eventually my other wife got hit by a military bomb that killed her. She died there on the spot.’
“Apart from my wife, I still have so many of my relatives who fell victim to the insurgency. They have killed so many of our families, some of them died while trying to flee town.”
However, speaking about the current military operations and the fight against the terrorists in the North-East, he said: ” We thank God, the fight by the insurgents has drastically reduced in recent times, especially under this regime. And I can say, some of our people have even returned back to the village, and were able to go back to the farm. I think president Buhari has tried in that aspect.
“Even my mother too is back in Gwoza, although I can’t precisely say which year it was when she went back, but I’m sure it was during this regime of Governor Zulum. In fact, I plan to pay her a visit in next few days. It’s up to 2 years since I last saw her.
“Now our only issue is our properties and things that we lost which the government has done nothing about. I wish the government will assist us in our present predicament. I honestly do not think I’ll go back to Gwoza, until I’m sure Boko Haram is completely wiped out in that region.”
A programme of “De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration” of repentant terrorists was started in 2016 by the military. Joseph Maina, the coordinator of the program, said a total of 1070 ex-combatants have successfully gone through the programme and have been reintegrated into society.