Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, on Friday in Maiduguri received 355 babies, 149 nursing mothers and 62 other children, believed to be family members of Boko Haram fighters, from the Nigeria Army in the state capital.
The 566 relations of the Boko Haram insurgents were rescued when troops overran the sect’s camps in different parts of the state.
The General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri, Brigadier General Victor Ezugwu, handed over the the 566 children and adults to Governor Shettima at a rehabilitation and reintegration center newly opened by the Borno State Government in Maiduguri to give medical care, education and cater for the welfare of the rescued persons.
While explaining the rationale behind his administration’s decision to continue to care for the rescued family members of the Boko Haram insurgents, the governor said he was determined to break the cycle of violence and secure the future of Borno.
Shettima, who was receiving for the fourth time rescued family members of Boko Haram fighters and detained suspects freed by the military, added that the intervention of the state would ensure that the rescued children and other family members of the violent sect were given the orientation and eduvation that would make them better citizens of the state and Nigeria.
He said, “What is of importance, we should all know, 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 Borno State, a future of violence in the Northeast and a violent future for our country.
“Our ultimate aim in taking custody of families of insurgents is to cut the cycle of violence so as to secure the future of Borno 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. These children will 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 save 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 be part of the future of Borno 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”.
The governor also noted that majority of the family members of the Boko Haram insurgents have been found to be innocent of the violence being perpetrated by their fathers.
He said it would, therefore, be wrong to visit the sins of the fathers on the children.
“There are some of our citizens who may be raising eye brows whenever we are seen taking custody, loving and caring for families of members of the Boko Haram insurgents, whether their widows or their children.
“I have seen some people criticise us on the social media but I think whoever criticizes what we are doing should be forgiven for making expressions out of ignorance on the basis of what we are doing.
“In our society, a lot of women neither know what their husbands do nor do they have control over their husbands. Our security forces do thorough investigation in ensuring that anyone freed is proven innocent of violent activities.
As for the children, they are innocent little souls who have got absolutely nothing to do with the sins of their fathers. They didn’t determine their parents, they were brought to life without any prior knowledge of the violence their parents perpetuate,” Governor Shettima said.