BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, yesterday, urged President Goodluck Jonathan not to foreclose the option of dialogue with the Boko Haram Islamic sect, with a view to securing the release of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok, Borno State.
The association, at the end of an executive committee meeting in Abuja, insisted that Jonathan should not sleep with his two eyes closed until the problem of terrorism is dealt with conclusively.
“There is something called burden of leadership, and it is by choice. Once you have chosen to seek to serve at any level, and more particularly, at the level of the presidency of a great country like Nigeria, with its good, bad and ugly, I am sorry to say that you have bid sleeping with two eyes closed, good night”, the National President of the association, Chief Okey Wali, SAN, stated.
Besides, NBA, which is the umbrella body of legal practitioners in the country, commended all the foreign governments that have so far offered their assistance towards securing the release of the school girls, even as it noted that terrorism is an international phenomenon that has no borders.
According to NBA: “While we agree that the terrorist sect Boko Haram should be routed out, we also advise that no option should be foreclosed in enthroning peace.
“History has taught us that constructive engagement of such insurgents has sometimes yielded dividends. All the years of terrorism in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland were brought to an end by the 1998 Goodfriday Agreement, brokered by the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Tony Blair. Many of us in the Niger Delta will tell you that we did not believe that the amnesty programme of the Federal Government would bring any peace in the region, but it did.
“If as a nation we had paid this much attention to the activities of Boko Haram and terrorism generally, we definitely would not be where we are today, but like they say, it’s better late than never. This is no time for buck-passing or attribution of faults or blames.
“This is a moment of solidarity, patriotism and support for the efforts to deal with a national problem, no politics or religiosity. Terrorism, as Nyanya bomb blast has shown, does not know religion, tribes or political party membership.
“We also do not think that this is a time of setting up of panels of enquiry; let us bring back the girls first, and then we can start with our usual rituals of panels to find out the circumstances of these abductions. In the midst of International collaboration, to find the girls and bring them back home, such enquiries may very well be a distraction.
“No wonder some of those on the panel from Borno State had boycotted the inauguration of the Committee. Some of the military personnel involved in the search for the girls, may very well be those to appear before such panels.
“We believe that the military has its methodology of dealing with such issues via the court marshal system if proven. We also believe that Service Chiefs and the Military High Command still have our confidence, unless of course, if they have lost the President’s confidence, then, we trust that he surely knows what to do.
“The NBA calls on the Federal Government to pay more attention to our borders with a view to securing them.
“The NBA calls on the government to review its strategy on terror. This current strategy is not working in spite of Trillions of Naira being expended on security. In March, 2014, the National Security Adviser rolled out the soft approach to counter terrorism, which comprehensively weaves multi-stakeholder engagement strategies. The Bar hopes that this strategy works.”
“But the fight against terrorism is not only for the government and foreign countries that offered to assist us; it is for all of us. The good news is that the new-counter terror regime assigns role to every citizen and institution to play in the fight against terrorism, in the sense that it advocates individual responsibility, collective vigilance, creates opportunities for inter faith and cross cultural conversation, establishes non-violent conflict resolution mechanism.
“From the foregoing, the NBA calls on all sectors of economy, social organizations, including the private sector to be involved in the efforts to confront violent extremism in the country”, it added.