A group of repentant insurgents embarked on sanitation exercise in communities across Maiduguri, the Borno State capital on Saturday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the exercise was organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in collaboration with the state government.
Some of the repentant insurgents wore T-shirts with inscriptions that read, “Please forgive us”, “We have repented”, and “Let’s rebuild Borno again”.
A Senior Research Fellow with CDD, Mala Mustafa said the exercise was part of efforts to prepare the ex-rebels for their reintegration process.
“The rationale behind this exercise is for CDD to support the Borno State government as part of preparatory work for the reintegration of the ex-combatants”, Mustafa said.
“We felt it is imperative to change the narrative, particularly the negative perception about them among community members.
“We want to rebuild relationship and trust between those that surrendered and community members”, he added.
Mustafa said that 400 of the repentant insurgents had been mobilised for the exercise, with 50 of them participating for a start at the Maiduguri hajj camp.
The camp houses over 12,000 repentant insurgents and their families.
Mustafa said the exercise by the repentant insurgents would be gradually extended to selected communities in Maiduguri and neighbouring areas.
According to him, the participants have been provided with training, particularly on civic education and how to deal with the challenges of stereotyping, while some Islamic clerics taught them on the consequences of extremism.
On his part, the Special Adviser to the state Governor on Security, Abdullahi Ishaq lauded the CDD initiative.
“CDD provided the equipment for this exercise and has been providing us with technical advice as good partners”, Ishaq said.
He said the initiative taken by the government after years of insurgency led to the surrender of many insurgents, and also contributed to peace-building efforts in the state.
“Today, Maiduguri is more peaceful than Abuja. We want to continue to call on communities to support this sulhu (peace) process by accepting them”, Ishaq said.
In July, the Theatre Commander of North East Joint Task Force of Operation Hadin Kai, Major-General Christopher Musa told TheCable more than 67,000 insurgents had so far surrendered to troops.
He said the insurgents were laying down their weapons because they wanted to live a normal life.