By Kinglsey Omonobi, Anayo Okoli, Clifford Ndujihe & DANIEL IDONOR
ABUJA—THE Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East Zone, which was set up following the bomb attacks by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, yesterday submitted its final report, asking President Goodluck Jonathan to consider the grant of amnesty to members of the sect wishing to surrender their arms to the Federal government.
The committee submitted its report on a day the security agencies commenced manhunt for suspected Boko Haram members who may have sneaked into Abuja to carry out suicide bomb attack on a national asset to dent the nation’s 51st Independence anniversary celebrations.
The Federal Government panel headed by Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, recommended that “the Federal Government should fundamentally, consider the option of dialogue and negotiation which should be contingent upon the renunciation of all forms of violence and surrender of arms to be followed by rehabilitation”.
The committee also told Vice President Namadi Sambo, who received the final report on behalf of President Jonathan that the Jaamatus Ahlus Sunnah Lid Daawatis Wal Jihad, aka Boko Haram, has nominated the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III or his representative; the Emir of Bauchi and Sheik Abubakar Gero Argungu, as its representatives in any federal government team that will negotiate with its members.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar in his reaction said he was not aware of the panel report and has not been contacted.
Following the attack on UN House in Abuja by Boko Haram on August 28 this year which claimed 23 lives, spokesman of the group, Abu Kakah accused the Federal Government of insincerity in dialoguing with the group, saying the only condition they would accept to talk with government was unconditional release of all their members whom, he said, are in prisons all over the country.
Claiming responsibility for the UN House attack as well as the failed suicide attack on Borno police command headquarters and the attack on banks in Gombi, Adamawa State which left more than 16 people dead the spokesman of the group said they had not been contacted by Borno State Government and the Federal Government or their representatives for dialogue.
The spokesman had also described the Sultan as the ‘Seriki’ of Sokoto and not the leader of the Muslims in the country, accusing him of supporting the Federal Government policies against Islam.
The panel which had earlier submitted its preliminary report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim Pius, said: “Government may consider constituting another committee with wider powers and with increased membership to handle the assignment within a reasonable timeframe but not weeks as was given to this committee”.
The committee which said it had interacted with various stakeholders, including the governors of Borno, Bauchi, Kano, Niger and Sokoto states and the Sultan of Sokoto among other traditional rulers, also urged “the Federal Government to diversify and strengthen its means of creating avenues for international intelligence sharing and inter-agency cooperation through diplomatic channels/pacts”.
It added that “the Federal Government should create an informal forum at the highest level, where Mr President will discuss national security issues with governors and other major stakeholders from time to time. Again, there is an urgent need for arranging an informal forum where Mr President will grant audience to each state governor on one-to-one basis where issues on security, could be addressed”.
It further recommended that “the Federal Government and Borno State Government should ensure that human and organisational victims most especially, churches and mosques including schools, which were destroyed during religious crises in the past and even in the recent past, should be compensated monetarily and by way of resuscitating and reconstructing their properties. Survivors of the deceased victims should be compensated appropriately”.
Causes of security challenges
The panel listed the remote and immediate causes of the present security challenges in the country, to include among others: “High level of poverty and illiteracy existing in the North-East; massive unemployment of youths, both skilled and unskilled; and existence of private militias that were established, funded and used by politicians and individuals and then dumped after having been trained to handle arms”.
Other causes, according to the seven-man panel, are “presence of large number of almajiris who together with those mentioned above could easily be used as canon-folders to ignite and sustain crises”; and “influx of illegal aliens resulting from porous and unmanned borders coupled with provocative and inciting preaching by some religious clerics”.
Also listed to be the immediate causes of the ongoing terrorist attacks are “the extra-judicial killing of the sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf and some members of the sect by security agents”; and “weak governance and failure to deliver services in the wake of huge resources accruing to state and local governments”.
The panel remarked that on the part of the security forces there are palpable operational lapses, service rivalry, underfunding, under-equipment and lack of collaboration; while governments have failed to deliver justice and bring immediate relief to victims of the crises.
Also cited as a major discovery by the panel is the “general failure of effective and coordinated intelligence gathering and its deployment to forestall events with undesirable consequences”; stressing that “in this direction, there is no high level security network/forum (outside the statutory national security institutions) that will enable an informal meeting between Mr President and the governors as well as other top level security stakeholders”.
Receiving the report from the committee members, Vice President Sambo who was joined by the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi, the SGF, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, promised to implement the recommendations as contained in the report.
The Vice President, while commending the committee for a job well done, said that “some of the major issues you have stated regarding the issues of poverty, unemployment, breach of the peace and the existence of private militia are issues that this administration is looking at seriously.”
Sambo explained that it was for this purpose that the government had in the 2011 budget, made available a large sum of money to tackle unemployment, stating that the issue of inadequate power supply which government was addressing squarely was central to job creation.
FG arrests suspects planning to disrupt independence celebrations
Following ‘substantiated’ intelligence reports that the Boko Haram sect had concluded arrangements to carry out a suicide bombing inside the federal capital territory by hitting at a National Asset to dent the nation’s 51st independence anniversary celebrations, topmost security organizations in the seat of power have commenced a manhunt for adherents of the group who may have sneaked into Abuja.
Towards this end, Vanguard learnt yesterday that more than 40 persons suspected of having links with the group, amongst them, some foreign nationals from Niger, were at the weekend arrested by a combined team of military police and military intelligence personnel attached to the Guards Brigade at Dei-Dei, a district located on the Kubwa- Suleija-Kaduna axis of the FCT.
It was gathered that the operation to round up suspects of the Boko Haram group which is termed ‘top priority’ by the security agencies, is being spearheaded by the Army Headquarters Garrison, the Military Intelligence, while all the battalions under the Guards Brigade have been put on a 24-hour alert at all the entry points into the FCT to ensure the sect members did not find their way into the FCT.
A Major General, (names with-held), is said to be coordinating the security network in the FCT, in the wake of the threats and the past experiences whereby the group beat all security cordons and successfully carried out the bombing of the UN House in Abuja.
Vanguard was informed that the 40 persons arrested on suspicion of being associates of the Boko Haram sect, were interrogated by the military authorities after which they were handed over to the Immigration authorities for further screening to determine the real numbers among them that are Nigerien nationals and those that are Nigerians after which the foreigners’ will be repatriated.
The manhunt it was further gathered, has led to the Nigeria Police deploying scores of plain clothes police officers into the city and the same action is being taken by the SSS and areas mapped out for possible infiltration, like Suleija, Zuba, Dei-Dei, Mararaba, Keffi, Nyanya, Gwagwalada, Kwali, Abaji are being closely monitored.
There are two types of Boko Haram —Yuguda
Meanwhile, Bauchi state Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda has said that there are two types of the sect operating in the country today. According to Governor Yuguda, while one faction of the sect distorts the true teaching of Islam, the other faction is a band of criminals who are out to destroy the country for their selfish reasons.
Yuguda said that while the group that misinterprets Islamic teaching could be allowed to exist if they don’t want to be corrected on account of freedom of worship, the one that gets involved in criminal activities should be tackled.
The Governor who spoke in Umuahia, Abia state capital, assured that the federal government would bring those behind the criminal group to book.
“I want to use this medium to educate adequately our people about Boko Haram. They are categorized into two different groups. The real one is not after killing people, but focused on the distortion of the real teachings of Islam. They have different agenda from the other group.
“The other people who call themselves Boko Haram are criminals. They are the ones that kill, bomb places, loot, burn police stations everywhere in the northern part of our country. I want to associate their activities to, maybe the massive unemployment in the country.
“But the Islamic sect that call themselves Boko Harm, they have distorted Islamic teaching, and the preaching of the Prophet as contained in the Holy
Quran. And I think they need to be corrected, and the system is doing its best to do the correction. And for those criminals who bomb others, we will make sure they are brought to book.
“Those criminals, we will take care of them because they are into criminal activities but for those who are into a sect that are trying to misinterpret the Quran, they can always be corrected. As long as they don’t want to be corrected and to the extent that they are not carrying weapons and attacking people, the constitution provides for freedom of worship”, Governor Yuguda said.
Ijaw groups give Boko Haram 14-day ultimatum
Disturbed by what they termed “tsunami of Boko Haram,” which has claimed many lives including Christians in the country in recent times via bomb blasts, some Ijaw groups have given the Islamist Boko Haram a 14-day ultimatum to end the murderous activities or face reprisal attacks.
Attributing the blasts to alleged opposition of a section of the country to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency, four Ijaw groups (Egbesu Mightier Fraternity of Izon) in a joint statement, said they could no longer fold their arms and watch innocent lives being destroyed.
Signed by Okin Sele, Elvis Tenten, General Krumah and Abu Mic, the statement read in part: “The continuous killings of Christians in the North should be stopped forthwith. The tsunami of Boko Haram will not, in its sweep, skip the homes and interests of its promoters, active or passive. If further killings by Boko Haram continue as a result of Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidency in the country within 14 days of this statement, we shall without hesitation commence sending every Muslim in the Niger Delta Region to their various homes and ask our people to return home…”
No section of this country is an embodiment of killing others. Muslims can’t live in our land freely (Niger Delta) while they will be killing our people in their land. If they don’t want peace we will meet them where ever they are. This is our message.”