By Luka Binniyat
KADUNA — THE Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday, asked President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately grant amnesty to all members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, as a way of encouraging them to lay down their arms.
Abubakar, who is also the President-General of Ja’matu Nasril Islam, JNI, the umbrella association of all Muslim unions, also denounced the recent violence in Wukari, Taraba State, where several people died, describing it as “madness beyond comprehension” lamenting that Muslims were the major victims.
The Sultan spoke at the opening of the annual central meeting of the JNI in Kaduna where the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Mohammed Aliyu Pate, was invited to enlighten the gathering on the controversy surrounding vaccination against polio.
Those who attended the meeting were mainly Northern Muslims, traditional leaders and clerics.
Sultan Abubakar, who expressed deep concern over the spate of bomb attacks and kidnappings by terrorists in parts of the country, argued that extending amnesty to the sect members would pave the way for dialogue between the sect and the Federal Government.
Making reference to a similar amnesty declared for militants in the Niger Delta, he said: “The type of amnesty that ended militants’ unrest in the Niger Delta will be suitable for the North. Initiating a restoration and rehabilitation programme that would integrate the terrorists into the larger society will pave the way for dialogue rather than engaging them in an endless war.
Spate of insecurity
“We want to bring to attention of the government our challenges. As Muslim leaders, we feel very concerned and very worried the way things are going on in Nigeria today, especially the insecurity issue in this country. We have problems in the North, we have in the South-East, we have in the South-West and in the South-South. We believe it is the duty of the government to protect all of us.
What happened in Wukari was total madness
“My brothers and sisters, what happened in Wukari a few days ago is total madness beyond comprehension. Because if you follow the news, how can an issue between the youths playing football turn into what happened in Wukari where the major victims have been Muslims?
“You have been living together for centuries why all of a sudden do you say you do not want to live with one another? These are some of the things we shall be discussing. Either there is something somewhere we do not know, or we come to the table together (with the other side) and seek the solution.
“By the grace of God, we believe that the issue of security or rather, insecurity, terrorism and their likes shall be discussed. We hear of terrorism everywhere, everyday. We have heard in the news that the President shall be visiting Maiduguri in a couple of days. And praise be to God, that the Shehu of Borno is here and he will be briefing us this evening.
Amnesty for Boko Haram
“We want to use this opportunity to call on the government, especially Mr President, to see how he can declare total amnesty for all combatants (Boko Haram) without thinking twice. That will make any other person who picks up arms to be termed a criminal.
“If amnesty is declared, it will give so many of those young men who have been running and hiding to embrace that amnesty. Some of them have already come out, because we have read in the papers that some have already come out.
“Even if it is only one person that denounces terrorism, it is the duty of the government to accept that person and see how he can be used to reach out to others. It is left for the government to use that person, evaluate him and see whether he is genuine or fake.
“These are some of the things we are pushing for, yet people will be saying that we are not doing anything as Muslim leaders in the north. No! We are doing much more than what any other person has done. And I want to commend you all. We will continue to do more despite criticisms.”
98% of polio victims have Muslim names — Minister
On polio outbreak and other epidemics in some states of the North, the Sultan said JNI would continue to work with the Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies of government to ensure that children in the region are immunised against such deadly diseases.
Addressing the JNI leaders on polio, Minister of State for Health, Dr. Mohammed Aliyu Pate, regretted that only three countries in the world, including Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, still recorded incidences of the wild polio, pointing out that “98 per cent of the children that are victims of this disease have Muslim names.”
He said: “It is unfortunate that there have been a lot of false claims going on about the wild polio virus in Nigeria.
“The opposition to it led to the unfortunate death of nine innocent female health workers in KanoState. That should not happen because immunisation of children is in the best interest of the children and our society.
“By 2007, Niger, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan were the only countries in the world that had polio cases. Today, India and Niger are off that list. Go to our streets today in the north, you will see how polio has crippled our children, turning them to disables and beggars.’’
The Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero, who declared the meeting open, enjoined Muslim leaders to preach peace to their followers, promising to ensure that Q’uranic Schools built in the state teach quality Western and Islamic education. The meeting is expected to issue a communiqué today.