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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jonathan Grants Amnesty To Boko Haram Sect

                                          

After several months of buck passing between the Presidency and stakeholders in the north on the emergence of Boko Haram Islamic sect and desirability of granting amnesty to its members, the Federal government, yesterday, took a major step towards granting them amnesty as it set up a committee to look at the feasibility or otherwise of the programme.

The terms of reference of the committee are:

*To consider the feasibility or otherwise of granting pardon to the Boko Haram adherents,
*Collate clamours arising from different interest groups who want the apex government to administer clemency on members of the religious sect; and
*To recommend modalities for the granting of the pardon, should such step become the logical one to take under the prevailing circumstance.
A senior security official who was privy to the meeting of the National Security Council, yesterday, told Vanguard that at the end of the meeting the President set up an in-house committee with a two-week mandate to consider the clamour for amnesty for Boko Haram members and consider its feasibility or otherwise.
The source said: “If the committee, which will work hand in hand with the National Security Adviser (NSA) decides that amnesty would be workable, it will then outline modalities for implementing it’. He added that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the President never said there would be no amnesty at all but that he would do so if people come forward to identify themselves for discussion and negotiations.


“It is a complex situation, but government has obligation to respect public opinion, especially with increasing clamour for the amnesty from various quarters”, he added.
President Jonathan was said to have reached a deal with northern leaders last Wednesday to grant amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect, as a means of ending the spate of raging violence across the region.
As a prelude to granting pardon to the sect, Jonathan met for several hours on Wednesday night with members of the powerful Northern Elders’ Forum, NEF at the Presidential Villa to secure their support and cooperation towards ending the malevolent onslaught. Specifically, the President wanted an undertaking from the elders that they would impress upon the sect leaders and their followers to lay down their arms and embrace peace, as a condition for offering the olive branch.
Under the plan, the Federal Government is to set up an Amnesty Commission, which would serve as a quasi-judicial body, to register and cater for repentant members of the sect and protect them from being harassed or intimidated by security agents.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan’s new resolve to grant amnesty to Boko Haram members has elicited mixed reactions across the country.
It’s Jonathan’s bait for North’s support in 2015
Second Republic governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa in his reaction said: “If President Jonathan eventually grants amnesty to members of the dreaded Boko Haram, it is a bait to getting political concession from the North in 2015”.
Musa said: “Yes, he can do it. It is an attempt. He can use it. May be that was his reason for not doing anything about Boko Haram because he wants to use it to buy political concession from the north. I have always believed that Boko Haram is more likely to be an agent provocateur established by the federal government to divert attention.”
Musa asserted, however, that the calls for amnesty to Boko Haram members became necessary and justifiable in the light of similar gesture given to former Niger Delta militants in the South-South geo-political zone of the country by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
According to him: “With the Amnesty given to the Niger Delta militants, once you create a thing like this, you create something that can always been used by others. It is very difficult for any reasonable person to understand why the president cannot give amnesty to Boko Haram. Secondly, Yar’adua didn’t give amnesty to Niger Delta militants because he was convinced they had a case. He gave them amnesty because his government was too weak and was afraid of what would have happened if the amnesty had not been given to them. So because of the consideration, he gave amnesty to buy time. Fortunately, it has worked. Now, the Jonathan administration is even weaker than the Yar’adua government because Yar’adua’s government at least had the support of the Northern oligarchy,” Musa explained.
Jonathan has proved himself as Nigerian President —Northern Youths
Reacting to the planned amnesty for Boko Haram, youths in the North said that President Jonathan had finally come out boldly as a Nigerian President and not an Ijaw leader by heeding strident calls to grant amnesty to the sect members.
This was the position of both the presidents of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, ACF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, and that of the Arewa Youth Forum, AYF, Alhaji Gambo Gujungu, in separate interviews with Vanguard.
According to Gujungu, Jonathan has taken the right step to reposition Nigeria for peace, unity and development and would have written his name in gold by the time the commission is able to resolve the lingering security crisis in the north.
The AYF leader said: “Now we truly believe that Jonathan is committed to uniting this country and taking it to the next level for all Nigerians to be proud of.
On his part, Shettima said: “Mr. President’s action tallies with what we have always been crying for and he has proved that he is a true leader, who listens to the yearning and aspirations of the people. We commend the President for this epoch approach to resolve the intractable security challenge in the North as we cannot afford to live in a country where strife and killings prevail.”

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