The Sultan made the call at the opening of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) Annual Central Council Meeting in Kaduna. In his words, “I want to use this opportunity to say that we have heard in the news that Mr. President will be visiting Maiduguri in a couple of days. We want to use this opportunity to call on the government, especially, Mr. President to see how he can declare total amnesty to all combatants without thinking twice. That will make any other person who picks up arms to be termed a criminal”.
The Muslim leader is of the opinion that, “If the amnesty is declared, majority of those young men who have been running will come out and embrace that amnesty and some of them have already come out because we have heard some of the stories in the papers”. He reiterated that, “even if it is one person and he denounces terrorism, it is the duty of government to accept that one person and see how he can be used to reach others. Whether it is true or not the government should accept that person first, evaluate him and see whether he is genuine or fake”.
The Sultan expressed concerns and worries of Muslims leaders about the situation of the country especially the insecurity plaguing the nation, lamenting, “we have problem in the North, we have problem in the South-East, we have problem in the South-West and in the South-South and it remains the duty of government to protect all of us”. He admitted that Nigeria is bedeviled with mountains of challenges but advised that we must all contribute to ensure peace and stability in the country. “My dear brothers and sisters, we are facing a lot of challenges in this country and as Muslims we owe it a duty to everybody to ensure that we contribute positively to peace and stability in this country….”
As President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan visits Maiduguri, the Bornu capital, the expectations of majority of Nigerians is that Mr. President will declare unconditional amnesty for Boko Haram members. This expectation was announced by the Sultan, in Kaduna.
Besides the call by the Sultan other prominent Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to dialogue with Boko Haram. Former President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida recently called on the Federal Government to exploit the option of dialogue with members of the insurgent group Boko Haram in order to arrest the prevailing drift in the nation’s security. Before then, President Olusegun Obasanjo has suggested the “carrot and stick” formula as a tool to arrest Nigeria’s insecurity and return the country to peace and stability.
On Monday, 18th February, 2013 the Federal Government of Nigeria expressed its readiness to offer amnesty to members of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, known as Boko Haram, if their leader, Abubakar Shekau gives up himself.
Shekau is one of three members of the group on United States of America’s terror list.
National Coordinator of the Counter Terrorism Centre, Major General Sarkin-Yaki Bello (rtd) disclosed this at an interactive session with top United States military (Capstone Course) personnel led by Admiral Henry Chiles (rtd) at the National Defence College, Abuja.
He revealed that government would accommodate members of the group in a rehabilitation programme.
“Government is also working to ensure that an opportunity will be created to embrace extremists who renounce terrorism to come forward for rehabilitation,” he announced.
He added that government is prepared to meet the demands put forward by the group which included the release of its members in detention; the rebuilding of its mosque (Markas) which was destroyed by military operations in Maiduguri in 2009 and allowing sect members to practice their religion freely.
Bello said government would adopt some socio-economic measures to address extremism in the north, hence members of the sect who renounce violence will be granted amnesty.
“The Federal Government in conjunction with state governments will soon officially launch a coordinated programme aimed at addressing unemployment in the region.”
“This will help reduce the pool of recruit for the Boko Haram sect. Additionally to this, the federal government will reform and regulate the hitherto unregulated Madrasa schools, popularly called the Almajiri system of education that has prevailed in the northern part of the country.
“Nigeria is collaborating with other neighboring countries to prevent terror attacks,” he said.
The National Coordinator of the Counter Terrorism Centre revealed that a number of foreign nationals were identified as Boko Haram members. In his words, “We have citizens of Niger Republic who are members of Boko Haram, we have Chadians, and we have Cameroonians as member”.
He also revealed the sources of Boko Haram’s arms and major security challenges confronting Nigeria. “The major source of arms for Boko Haram comes from Libya through Chad,” he said, pointing out that the Federal Government has evolved approaches to deal with the problem. He as well, observed that Boko Haram attacks, maritime insecurity and kidnapping are the major security challenges facing the country.
He emphasized that of the three, Boko Haram is the most dangerous because “its members live within the society and it’s difficult to spot them.”
“The sect has grown in sophistication from when it emerges in 2009 as it is now capable of carrying out coordinated attacks in many cities in northern Nigeria.
He said Nigerian security forces have had to review their tactics and modus operandi to address the new security challenges, adding that security operations will now be aligned to suit overall government effort of eradicating terrorism.
“In conjunction with other stakeholders, a draft National Counter Terrorism Strategy which will soon be approved by our president has been produced. The idea is to have an all embracing approach toward handling counter terrorism issues.
“Other measures include advance plan to set up National Counter Terrorism Centre which further ensure coordination and synergy among all agencies. A Fusion Centre will be a key component of Counter Terrorism Centre which will serve as a processing point for all source of intelligence,” he added.
A good account of the layers of protection that the Federal Government in putting in place to check insurgency and protect Nigeria and its interests.
Boko Haram insurgency has gone beyond arms struggle for negotiation for socio-economic development. Its primary aim is to Islamize Nigeria. How do we reconcile Islamization of Nigeria and the proposed unconditional“amnesty to all combatants”? Have we ever consider the fact that Abubakar Shekau and his followers in Boko Haram are mere puppets in the hands of the puppet masters who are not only non-Nigerians, but also reside outside Nigeria, from where they direct Boko Haram’s operations and attacks in Nigeria? If Mr. President is to declare amnesty for declaration’s sake, so be it.
Advising on the best possible way to contain Boko Haram and check insecurity in Nigeria, it is heartening to note that our three respected leaders said the same thing in different languages. The Obasanjo’s carrot and stick and the Sultan Sa’ad’s unconditional amnesty and use of repentant insurgents to reach others cannot be divorced from each other; they compliment and reinforce one another. It is a tacit endorsement of the creation of ruse force to carryout pseudo operations in the country.