How presidency frustrated peace talks with Boko Haram— Shehu Sani

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BY Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA— Human rights activist and President of Civil Rights Congress, CRC, Mr. Shehu Sani, yesterday, alleged that it was President Goodluck Jonathan that scuttled an initial effort to constructively engage key members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect with a view to convincing them to end the blood-letting insurgency in the northern part of the country.

Sani, who spoke at a seminar for judges and journalists, organised by Konrad-Adenaver-Stitung, KAS, a German non-governmental organisation, gave an account of some underground moves that were made by some elder statesmen, including former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Sani, who presented a paper on The Difficulties of Political Cases in Justice Delivery, recalled how he persuaded Obasanjo to visit the family of the slain leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, in Maiduguri on a peace mission.
It will be recalled that the representative of Mohammed Yusufs’ family, Babakura Fugu, who hosted Obasanjo in Maiduguri, was killed shortly after the meeting.

However, Sani said he opted out of the presidential committee because he was convinced that it would not achieve anything given his earlier experience with the Presidency on the matter.

Obasanjo intervenes
He said: “I independently reached out to leaders of Boko Haram and offered myself to mediate on behalf of the Federal Government.
“When they were ready to talk, and because I do not have the telephone numbers of President Goodluck Jonathan, I decided to reach out to Obasanjo.
“I narrated my encounter with members of Boko Haram to Obasanjo and he said ‘are you really sure of this?’ I said yes and invited him to Maiduguri.
“Thereafter, I told the leaders of the sect that I was coming with former President, Obasanjo. They agreed and gave us conditions that the meeting should take place in Maiduguri with no security men and journalists involved.
“At the meeting, they came out with photographs and some documents and presented them to Obasanjo, who assured them that he was going to take their grievances to the Federal Government after appealing to them to stop the killings.
“Obasanjo took those documents to the Villa. Since then nothing was done. But Obasanjo told me that he has done his best.

Delay at the Villa
“I made a second attempt by involving Dr. Dati Ahmed, who was a teacher to the founder of Boko Haram, late Mohammed Yusuf. We brought him to Abuja to mediate with the Federal Government on behalf of the sect.
“We went to see the then National Security Adviser, NSA, to the President, late General Owoye Azazi. He kept us waiting in his office for over three hours only to tell us that after consulting with security chiefs, he was told that the Boko Haram members have run out of weapons.
“Therefore, the sect can be overrun by the Federal Government and so there was no need to meet with them. At the end of the day, Dr. Ahmed was frustrated and we all left Abuja.

… opting out of amnesty c’ttee
“We have done this twice and was frustrated, only for me to wake up one day to hear that my name was among the 26-member Presidential Committee on Amnesty for Boko Haram members.
“So when I turned it down, some people called me names and said many things about me, including the fact that I am not a patriotic Nigerian.
“I cannot think of any patriotism other than the efforts I have made. It took me three months to make contact with leaders of Boko Haram.
“It is not an easy thing because you are dealing with a killer group that even goes after their members.
“When you give a committee two weeks, it is not going to work. I have done my best and I know the committee will not achieve anything.”

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