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UNWANTED! Funds for rehabilitating terrorists

By Rose Moses

It is now commonplace in Nigeria to wake up to the most absurd of happenings in our national life. However, it beats every rational thinking that a Senator of the Federal Republic is proposing a bill for the nation to draw from the very meagre education vote to train presumed repentant terrorists abroad.

As you are still trying to wake up to the reality, which also include enlisting them into the Nigerian Military, among others, the controversial bill, known as ‘A Bill for the Establishment of the National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria and for Other Connected Purposes’, has already passed the first reading. It is expected to be funded by all of us, one way or the other, if passed into law.

Interestingly, the bill was sponsored by Ibrahim Geidam, the Senator representing Yobe East, one of the states that often come under attack by the insurgents.


And while the argument rages as to when and if a terrorist ever repents, one would have expected that if government recognizes the importance of education as a way of fighting crime, the millions of out-of-school children in the country should have been given priority, not a gang of killers that ought to be made to pay for their crimes against humanity.

But not in Nigeria, where a survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as of 2018, indicated that the population of not-in-school children rose from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world. And the situation, to the best of my knowledge, has not improved. In fact, it seems to be getting worst by every indication.

Most of these children, the survey had revealed, are found in northern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, where Boko Haram militants have disrupted academic activities, among other things.

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In February of 2018, for instance, the deadly group had abducted 110 girls from a school in Dapchi, Yobe State. Although they were returned one month later, it was not without a warning to their parents never to take them back to school again.

Four years before this particular incident, specifically on the night of April 14, 2014, about 276 female students said to be writing the West African School Certificate Examination, were kidnapped from their school in the town of Chibok, Borno State, still by the same Boko Haram. About 57 of the schoolgirls have reportedly been rescued, having jumped off their abductors’ truck.

The rest of the school girls may have either died, or turned to wives and sex slaves of members of the insurgents, among other inhuman treatment.

Granted that education deprivation in northern Nigeria is driven by various factors, including economic barriers and socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage formal education, especially for girls, Boko Haram, of recent, has become a major factor.

Yet, all children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances may be, have the fundamental right to quality education.

In a country like Nigeria, however, where that right remains a mirage, to think that a Senator is scheming against the measly vote for education, not for the benefit of millions of the needy children but to train, abroad, barefaced militants who kill, maim and displace innocent citizens, is not just repulsive. It is also an outright slap on the taxpayers, who have been made to endure their bloodletting for years. These same people, whose name loosely translates to “western education is evil!”

What an irony they are now said to have repented. And many would ask, how repentant can a terrorist be?

While you are still at that, the controversial bill has passed the first reading in the Senate. And barely two days after the sponsoring senator defended it, 25 Boko Haram members and their wives, said to have surrendered to troops in Niger Republic, arrived in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Does that set off any form of alarm?

Anyway, and according to the script, the proposed national agency for the so-called repentant terrorists, if passed into law, will get its funding from the Universal Basic Education Commission, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, donations, grants, annual subventions from government and counterpart funding from the six Northeast states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, and Gombe.

As a matter of fact, a copy of the bill obtained by The Punch newspaper, states one percent of TETFund and UBEC funds will be used in funding the agency for rehabilitating the terrorists. The agency will also be funded by 0.5 percent of the federal allocation of the six Northeast states.

How is TETFund financed, you may wish to ask. Well, simply from a compulsory two percent profit tax that is paid by all registered companies to the Federal Government.

Section 10 of the controversial bill reads in part, “The agency shall establish and maintain a fund which will consist of initial take-off grant from the Federal Government; annual subvention from the government; states’ counterpart funding, which will be deducted at source at 0.5 percent of their statutory allocation; one percent of the Education Tax Fund (TETFund) and UBEC fund.”

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This is in addition to grants-in-aid, gift, testamentary dispositions, endowments, and donations.

Part of the proposal is for the agency to have a governing board that would consist of a chairman to be appointed by the President in consultation with the National Assembly; one representative from each of the Northeast states; one representative each of the stakeholders; three representatives of the impacted communities; one person from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Police, and the Nigeria Security & Civil Defence Corps, all of whom must not be below the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

The governing council, according to the report, will also include one representative each from the federal ministries of humanitarian affairs, finance, environment, petroleum resources, Northeast Development Commission, and the Local Content Board.

The bill allows ‘repentant’ terrorists to receive foreign education, with the proposed agency expected to, among other things, coordinate efforts of relevant agencies, organizations and institutions towards the attainment of set objectives as regards job placement, internship, and sustainable reintegration.

What a way to reward impunity, if you ask me!

All these happening in an administration that immediately on assumption of office, stopped a novel programme of its immediate predecessor that provided for such opportunity for every Nigerian student that made first class from the university!

In any case, what happens to communities like Chibok ravaged by the criminal activities of the insurgents? What happens to millions of displaced persons in the northeast and elsewhere following activities of these deadly terrorists? How have they been rehabilitated?

What is government doing for the upliftment of millions of almajiri children roaming the streets in the north? Recall that this same government stopped, with immediate effect also, an educational programme for almajiris put in place by immediate past administration.

Are we going to wait until they (almajiris) take up arms before providing them with necessary education, either within or in foreign land? In other words, is the sponsor of this bill and his backers saying that we should all take up arms if we have to get such attention from government?

How on earth is any government planning to win the war against terror by so pampering perpetrators of such evil, even as their victims are left to wallow in severe pains inflicted on them with hardly any respite from the same government?

Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, and Fulani herdsmen are wiping out thousands of lives and communities in Nigeria with hardly any arrest made. Instead of having them face the music, long-suffering Nigerians are told that those terrorizing them deserve to be trained abroad with state funds!

There was, indeed, a country!