From TIMOTHY OLANREWAJU, Maiduguri
Fourteen boys initially detained but released yesterday by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State in compliance with President Goodluck Jonathan’s directive, stunned journalists when they confessed they were informants and spies of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgent group.
The JTF had yesterday handed over 20 detainees, including six women and 14 children, ages between nine and 14 years, to the Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima at the Maiduguri Government House. But children who the JTF spokesman, Lt Col Sagir Musa repeatedly addressed as “young men” disclosed they usually leak information about the movement or activities of the security troops in Maiduguri to the Boko Haram men for a fee.
“I usually leak information on military activities to Boko Haram so that they can attack them. My last job was to travel from Maiduguri to Gashua to spy on soldiers before I was caught,” one of the released detainees who claimed to be 10 years old, confessed. The insurgent sect attacked Gashua, a serene town, north of and about 320 kilometres away from Maiduguri two months ago.
“We usually help Boko Haram to carry stolen items each times and some times help them to give information about people they want to attack and sometimes even help to hide their guns after attacks. They pay us N5,000 after every operation. I regret what I did. I want to go home and ask for forgiveness from my father and mother for what I did. I also want to go to school now,” another one, about 13 years old also said.
Another 14-year-old boy said he wasn’t involved in spying the activities of soldiers for the sect but for his refusal to report the burning of a school in the city. “I was arrested because I refused to report those who burnt down the school to soldiers though I know them. Some people heard me discussing the people who burnt the school and reported me to the soldiers who arrested me.” The six women accused of being informants of Boko Haram denied their involvement.
JTF spokesman, Lt Col Sagir, in a remark, maintained that the detainees were “true members of Boko Haram.” He said they were arrested last year at different locations within the metropolis. He said the release and handing over of the 20 detainees was in line with the order given to the task force by the nation’s defence headquarters. The Brigade Commander of the 21 Armored Brigade, Maiduguri, Brig. Gen Bamigboye led the JTF team.
Gov Shettima directed the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Youth Development to train the women in various skills before they are reintegrated into the society. He announced a palliative monthly package of N10, 000 to each of the parents of the kids who show evidence of their children attending school for a month without hitch. He thanked the president for his magnanimity.