Some repentant Boko Haram insurgents Tuesday night invaded a police station in Maiduguri in an attempt to set free their colleagues that were arrested earlier over alleged drug offences, witnesses told the Daily Trust on Thursday.

However, Police Public Relations Officer in Borno State, Kenneth Daso, who confirmed that there was an incident at the police station, said the assailants were repelled by officers on duty.

Daso said the security breach was heralded by an operation carried out by the police.

He said, “On the 30/04/24 at about 1745hrs in a joint operation raid at the Kasuwar Fara, following an intelligence report that some drug peddlers, smokers, repentant and Boko Haram insurgents are indulging in nefarious activities, eight persons were arrested including seven male and a female in that operation with 476grams of illicit substances.

“As you know, such activities have been banned in the area by the state government since last year.

“Few hours after the arrest, some unscrupulous persons, so-called repentant Boko Haram, dressed up in military attire tried to invade our police station at Ibrahim Taiwo but were repelled immediately.

“Thereafter, they went and attacked Nigeria Immigration Service and NDLEA check points after the welcome to the township gate and they burnt it down,” he said.

ASP Kenneth said a serious investigation is currently ongoing to unravel those who were behind the acts.

They set some people free – Witnesses

However, some eyewitnesses told one of our correspondents that the attackers, dressed in military camouflage and wielding cutlasses, forcefully gained access into the police station and whisked away some suspects.

“About 20 of the attackers forced their way into the police station and escaped with some of the detained members.

“They left some policemen on duty wounded; they also went on rampage attacking passers-by with cutlasses, before reinforcements by the CRACKS team arrived,” he said.

Another witness said the police operatives in the station did their best to repel the attackers but were subdued.

“Some of the police operatives took to their heels but returned when reinforcements came. We were told that the actual suspects could not be freed, only some people at the counter escaped.

“It was a sad incident,” he said.

Residents in the area said they were scared by the development, saying the incident was a clear indication that Maiduguri is no longer safe.

Fanta Modu, who owns a restaurant around the area, urged the government to reconsider its approach to issues around the de-radicalisation exercise of the federal government.

“I was relatively young when followers of Mohammed Yusuf (Boko Haram founder) launched simultaneous attacks on Maiduguri in 2009. They also attacked the police headquarters at that time.

“Honestly, the recent event reminds me of that terrible incident. I am of the view that the so-called repentant Boko Haram members have not fully repented. They are not well refined because if they have been fully reintegrated into the society, why would they go back to drugs to the extent that they had the audacity to attack security posts?” she asked.

We’re yet to be briefed – Borno govt

Contacted last night, Abdulrahman Bundi, who is one of the spokespersons for Governor Babagana Zulum, said they were yet to be briefed on the matter and therefore, could not comment on it.

“I just read it on social media. There is no enough information but I assure you that the government will comment on the matter after we get the correct information on what transpired,” he said.

Daily Trust recalled that on March 5, 2021, Governor Zulum said the de-radicalisation of repentant Boko Haram members “is not working.”

Zulum, who spoke at the North-East Governors’ Forum meeting in Bauchi, said that the initiative needed to be reviewed because some of the ex-Boko Haram members only come to spy on communities and then return to join the group.

“It has been confirmed that the concept of de-radicalisation or Safe Corridor is not working as expected. Quite often, those who have passed through the Safe Corridor initiative, or have been de-radicalised, usually go back and re-join the terror group after carefully studying the various security arrangements in their host communities, during the reintegration process.

“So the idea of de-radicalisation, as currently being implemented, needs to be reviewed because the main goals and the underlying objectives behind the initiative are not being achieved,” he said.

The governor advised at the time that the best option is to immediately prosecute the insurgents in accordance with the Terrorism Act.

However, at a recent event, the Borno State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo, said that only about 5,000 out of the over 100,000 repentant Boko Haram members were actual insurgents.

Zuwaira disclosed this while presenting a paper titled ‘Borno Model’ at an event to commemorate the 2023 International Day of Peace, organised by an NGO, Peace Ambassador for Humanitarian Aid and Empowerment (PACHE).

She said: “Contrary to fears by the public that 100,000 were insurgents, only about 5,000 are actual fighters. Most of the others are farmers, women and children held hostage by the insurgents.

“Many of them are victims being held by the insurgents,” she said.

She said that those being de-radicalised and reintegrated back to their communities did not include the insurgents.

“We do not release the insurgents. We have records of the whereabouts of any person released,” she said.

Thousands of repentant terrorists released back into ‘communities’

Daily Trust reports that on January 24, 2024, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa, said that 1,935 Boko Haram terrorists were released back to the communities from the Bulumkutu camp in Maiduguri, Borno State in six years.

He said the insurgents were released between 2016 and 2022.

Musa, who was represented by the Director of Training, Defence Headquarters, Rear Adm. Daupreye Matthew, said this while delivering a lecture at the opening of the National Security Course on `Psychological Operations and Strategic Communication’ in Abuja.

“Also, 1,543 repentant terrorists graduated from Mallam Sidi Camp in Gombe State between 2016 and 2022.

“From July 2021 to May 4, 2022, alone, no fewer than 51,828 terrorists and their family members surrendered, out of which 13,360 were fighters,” the CDS had said.

Musa, however, said the military had up-scaled the use of hard and soft power in counter-insurgency operations to contain the emerging and changing nature of adversaries.

He said, “The use of non-kinetic efforts under Operation Safe Corridor led to the surrender of more than 2,000 Boko Haram members between 2016 and 2017. 67 per cent of those who surrendered were of the Abubakar Shekau faction of the insurgents.

“So far, 106,000 terrorists and their family members have surrendered in the North East.”

We must review de-radicalisation programme – Security expert

When contacted, a security analyst, Senator Iroegbu, said with what happened, the whole programme of reintegrating the Boko Haram insurgents needs to be re-evaluated.

“The danger now is that, what these repentant Boko Haram did has justified those who were in opposition to the reintegration programme in the first place, and it strengthens their voices.

“And, this has jeopardised the whole programme itself because it creates doubt that, are these people truly repentant? And it also put in danger the chances of those who genuinely would want to partake in the programme and take a new leaf.

“It is a call for those who are implementing the programme to evaluate it and know whether it should continue or not,” he said.