Sultan under fire over Islamists amnesty call

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By SAM EYOBOKA

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, may have made the call in good faith. But he is literally under attack for making it.

Some Christian leaders rose up in arms against the leader of the Muslim community in Nigeria, at the weekend, for his call for amnesty for members of the Islamist group, Boko Haram, terrorising some northern states.

Catholic Church said it was amazing that a man in an exalted office as the Sultan’s could make such a call.

Niger Delta Christian Leaders Forum (NDCLF) said it was improper to call for amnesty for “terrorists”.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 northern states took sides with President Goodluck Jonathan who rejected Abubakar’s call.

The Sultan made the call for amnesty for the Boko Haram members  at a meeting of Ja’amatu Nasril Islam (JNI) in Kaduna on Thursday.

It was his solution to the insurgency in the North. But President Goodluck Jonathan, in a riposte, said the proposal was impossible as there were no clear leaders of the group to discuss amnesty with.

Spokesman for CAN in the 19 northern states, Elder Sunday Oibe, told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, that the position of Christians on the Sultan’s  call for amnesty was clear, adding that the body would rather address the call for the removal of JTF from the North East.

Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III

Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III

According to him, the Borno elders are failed politicians “seeking relevance through an amnesty agenda which is why they are clamouring for funds to rehabilitate themselves”.

Oibe continued: “They are not realistic. We know that the Shehu of Borno is not associated with such calls. He is a gentlemen who will do anything to ensure peace in his domain, but those politicians who have been parading themselves as elders of Borno will stop at nothing to make themselves relevant”.

PFN Chairman for Borno State, Pastor Haruna Maidoki, who also spoke to Sunday Vanguard, yesterday,  lamented that because of the security situation in the North East, most residents were denied the opportunity of welcoming Jonathan when he visited the region last week.

He backed the president on his opposition to the call by the Sultan for amnesty for Boko Haram insurgents.

”We are very happy that the president demonstrated the needed political will and spoke to them the way he did,” Maidoki said, adding that the Christian community in that axis was now reassured that it is part of the nation called Nigeria.

He said the people calling for amnesty for Boko Haram members or the removal of JTF could not be said to be realistic because none of them made mention of the plight of the Christians who had been the victims of  the violent clashes in the region.

”They have not spoken one word about the plight of the Christians killed and their churches that were burnt or vandalised”, he stated, adding that they were not realistic and should ignored totally.

NDCLF listed several points why Jonathan must ignore the Boko Haram amnesty call.

According to the Secretary Genereal of  the group, Bishop Eddy Bebor, it is a well known fact that the insecurity situation in the country is targeted at the Jonathan administration.

”You can tell when and how Boko Haram started to unleash terror in Nigeria, you can still remember statements of high profile personalities in the northern part of Nigeria and you can also see the reaction of leaders from northern Nigeria  to the security challenges that have  bedeviled us as a country, they actually want to frustrate the government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and that is what they are doing so that the president will not concentrate.

”What a shame today that there is a call for amnesty for terrorists, people who killed and destroyed lives and property for reason that is not acceptable to the country.

”He (Sultan Abubakar)is calling for amnesty for terrorists that has nobody speaking for them. If he is saying that he knows them, let him tell us. If he says the reason Boko Haram is terrorizing Nigeria is justified, let him tell us. If he is saying Boko Haram has asked him to speak on their behalf, let him tell us.

”The militants from the Niger Delta region were protesting marginalisation/underdevelopment even though their zone is producing the oil that provides for the entire country and they were given amnesty. The elders, church leaders, traditional rulers and political leaders condemned the arms taking of the Niger Delta youths openly while speaking to the government to see to the plight of the region. There was an agreement reached by both government  and those who represent the militants before amnesty was granted.

”Who are those representing Boko Haram? Who are the Boko Haram themselves and why have they decided to terrorise our nation?” Bebor said his group needed  answers to the questions!

Director of Social Communications at the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu, who spoke for his church, said it was amazing for somebody of the Sultan’s stature to make the amnesty call for Boko Haram members.

”With due respect to him and the exalted office he represents, the call for amnesty for Boko Haram members as canvassed by the Sultan is improper. Two things easily come to mind: the culture of impunity and  the erosion of the sacredness of human life,” Osu said.

He  argued that the Sultan’s call for amnesty without reference to the victims of the Boko Haram attacks  was unfortunate, noting,”Reading between the lines one can deduce that the lives wasted by the Islamic fundamentalist sect are of no significance”.

According to Catholic church spokesman, the Sultan’s argument that most of Boko Haram’s victims were Muslims could not be justified. “It appears we have all suddenly forgotten the sacredness of human life. I believe that anybody who commits any offence should punished in accordance with the laws of the land.”

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