The presidency on Wednesday explained its decision to authorise the release of women, children and other suspected Boko Haram members currently being detained by Nigeria’s security agencies.
The Nigerian military on Tuesday said it had received a directive from President Goodluck Jonathan to release all the women being held in connection with insurgent activities.
The Senior Special Adviser on Public Affairs to the President, Doyin Okupe, said in a statement on Wednesday that the release is part of the recommendation of the Presidential Committee on dialogue and peace in Northern Nigeria.
Many Nigerians including the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria had questioned the continued sustenance of the amnesty committee despite the declaration of a State of Emergency in three troubled states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. The emergency declaration, which was approved by the National Assembly on Tuesday, has led to an increased deployment of soldiers to the areas with a view to crushing the insurgents and criminals.
Mr. Okupe, however, explained that the emergency declaration does not foreclose the dialogue option to resolve the insurgency.
“This directive by Mr President further proves that the Federal Government has not foreclosed dialogue as a viable option in its bid to put an end to insurgency and terrorist activities in the Northern part of the country,” Mr Okupe said.
He said the release of the detainees is expected to encourage some of the insurgents to give up their arms.
“It is expected that this phased release of detainees will encourage those who wish to embrace the peace option to come out and take advantage of the dialogue and peace option provided by the Committee put in place by government,” he said.
Mr Okupe explained that the president’s directive is for the Boko Haram detainees to be released in phases, the first batch being women and children.
“The emphasis is on women and children who have been in detention on suspicion of involvement and/or connection with insurgency in some parts of the country,” Mr. Okupe said in what seems to be the first confession that underage persons have been detained by the military forces.
The Boko Haram had in their videos released prior to the emergency rule declaration accused the Nigerian military of arresting and detaining their wives, female relatives and others, a claim never admitted to by the government until now.
Mr. Okupe added that the first phase of release will “be followed by other phased releases where cases will be treated on their individual merits by the Defence authorities and security agencies”.
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