ABUJA—Leader of militant Boko Haram Islamic sect, Abubakar Shekau, yesterday, rejected the idea of any potential amnesty deal which the Federal Government may offer the sect members if the committee set up to look into it gives the go-ahead.

Shekau, in a 30-minute audio recording, where he spoke in Hausa, Arabic and English declared

that his group had “not committed any wrong to deserve amnesty”. He said it was the government that should be seeking amnesty from his group and not the other way round, adding that even though the sect was the one wronged and the one that should be asked for amnesty, it was not ready to grant any pardon to the government.

A video grab made on March 21, 2013 from a video distributed to reporters by purported intermediaries of the Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, shows the suspected leader of the Nigerian Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Imam Abu Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Abubakar Ash Shekawi, also known as Abubakar Shekau, at an undisclosed location in Nigeria. AFP

Shekau was reacting to the reported setting up of a committee last week by the National Security and Defence Council to consider the possibility of granting amnesty to Boko Haram. The committee is due to present its report to the council next week.

Shekau’s recorded video statement, first passed by intermediaries of Boko Haram to journalists in Northern Nigeria, yesterday, featured the militant leader talking about the possibility of an amnesty deal. Speaking in  Hausa, Shekau said the amnesty deal  was “surprising.”

He said: “We are the one to grant them pardon. Have you forgotten their atrocities against us?”

The man in the video later threatened the lives of anyone claiming to be a representative of Boko Haram.

“We are surprised that today it is the Federal Government saying it will grant us amnesty. Oh God, is it we who will grant you amnesty or you are the one to grant us amnesty?

“What have we done? If there is room for forgiveness, we are not going to do it until God gives us permission to do it. Have you forgotten your sin, have you forgotten what you have done to us in Plateau, the state you called Jos. We emerged to avenge killings of our Muslim brothers and the destruction of our religion. Was it not in Plateau that we saw people cannibalising our brothers?”

How Amnesty talks began

The idea of an amnesty, came to a head in March when the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar called for it. Others have suggested offering an amnesty deal in line with one previously given to militants in the Niger Delta in 2009.

President Goodluck Jonathan had at the end of  the National Security Council meeting last week Thursday set up a committee to look into the possibility of granting amnesty to the Islamic sect.

The previous day, the president was said to have met for several hours with members of the powerful Northern Elders’ Forum, NEF at the Presidential Villa where a deal was reached to grant amnesty to Boko Haram members as a means of ending the spate of raging violence across the region.

Specifically, the President wanted an undertaking from the elders that they would impress upon the sect leaders and their followers to lay down their arms and embrace peace, as a condition for offering the olive branch.

Under the plan, the Federal Government is to set up an Amnesty Commission, which would serve as a quasi-judicial body, to register and cater for repentant members of the sect and protect them from being harassed or intimidated by security agents.

A faction of the sect had last Sunday rejected the amnesty offer, saying the group did not ask for it. Spokesman of a faction of the sect, Abu Dardam who spoke on the Hausa service of the BBC stated that they are rejecting the amnesty because they don’t recognize democracy as a form of government and that the group does not agree with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, arguing that justice can only be found in the Holy Quran, that is Shariya system of government.

 

Go ahead with amnesty, Northern elders tell FG

Meanwhile, Northern elders, yesterday, asked the Federal Government to go ahead with fine-tuning the processes that would lead to granting unconditional amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect despite claims that the group is not seeking pardon.

The elders spoke in reaction to the claim purportedly made by the sect leader, Abubakar Shekau, that it did not do anything to warrant amnesty and that it was the group that should even pardon the government for atrocities committed against Muslims.

The Spokesman for the Northern Elders’ Forum, Prof Ango Abdullahi, told Vanguard in an interview that the argument over who was right or wrong was not as important as achieving peace in the North.

According to the NEF, what matters at the moment is how to bring about a cessation of violence and not who is right or wrong.

Abdullahi said: “We have heard various arguments following the setting up of a committee on amnesty but we are interested in making peace and not apportioning blames.

“If two drivers are involved in an accident that closes a highway, I think the first thing to do is to clear the highway before checking who was right or wrong so that other road users would not suffer unduly,” he said.

“Our advice therefore, is that the Federal Government should not be distracted but should proceed with what it is doing to grant amnesty to the group so as to bring about peace and development in the region,” the spokesman admonished.

Military warns against withdrawal of soldiers from streets

Indications also emerged, yesterday, that the high command of the armed forces was ready to endorse the amnesty proposal of the Jonathan administration, provided the officers and soldiers deployed to the trouble spots where militant groups  had been carrying out deadly attacks and bombings were left on standby.

The military high command also argued that if the Boko Haram sect rejected the olive branch of amnesty being offered them by the federal government, then it (military) will be justified on its initial stand that military option is the language terrorrists understand.

Towards this end, the military have resolved to present a common report and recommendations endorsing the amnesty to the panel set up under the watch of the National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd). They would however insist on retaining soldiers on the streets of the terrorist prone –risk states.

At a meeting on Tuesday presided over by the CDS, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, the military chiefs deliberated on the proposed amnesty for the Boko Haram sect members.

Sources said that after several hours, the service chiefs having reviewed what transpired at the Security Council meeting and having presented the position of their services individually, harmonized their position which the CDS would submit to the NSA panel as a MEMO.

“The meeting reviewed last week minutes of the Security Council including several media reports on the issue. They agreed there was a need to let the amnesty option be.

They however expressed reservations if the leadership of the Boko Haram sect would ever accept it. If they don’t, it would justify their position that it is only the force that could call the terrorists to order.

“The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ihejirika, was said to have reiterated his position at the meeting that ‘You don’t negotiate with terrorists anywhere in the world because of their selfish agenda’.

The Chief of Defence Staff himself explained to his team that as a Muslim, he knows that the Boko Haram sect members are not behaving as Muslims. He urged his colleagues to let the amnesty be the an alternative to the force.

He said, ‘those who accepted it must meet certain conditions and to be kept under a watch while those who reject it should be decisively dealt with.”

Another source, disclosed that the service chiefs, in their report, stated that the soldiers should remain on the streets as long as the bombing continued.

They (military chiefs) faulted those calling for their withdrawal adding, “as long as the factor that brought the soldiers on the streets persists, our soldiers remain on the streets.”

The source explained that the military strongly believed some people are using the sect for political purposes but appreciate the professionalism in the way the soldiers have been fighting the terrorists.

They also resolved to ensure good welfare package for the soldiers who are involved in the war against terrorism.

If their recommendations are accepted, some retired military officers might be among those that would constitute the Amnesty Committee. Their recommendations might have been submitted ahead of next week Security Council Meeting.

Vanguard gathered further that the stand of the Service Chiefs was in line with that of subordination to civil authority and one which shows the armed forces being loyal to their Commander in Chief.

Recall that President Goodluck Jonathan last week mandated the NSA to set up a panel to study the possibility or otherwise of granting amnesty to the Boko Haram sect whose members have been terrorizing some states in the North in their quest to impose Sharia on the polity.

At the meeting presided over by the President were  the National Security Adviser, the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral S Ola Ibrahim, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba-, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar.

Others were the Director General of the State Security Services, Ekpenyong Ita,  Director, Military Intelligent (DMI), Brigadier- General Letam Wiwa, DG, Nigerian Intelligent Agency (NIA), Major General S.Y Audu. Others were the Ministers of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, Interior, Abba Moro and that of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade.

At the end of the meeting, the committee was given such terms of reference thus: *To consider the feasibility or otherwise of granting pardon to the Boko Haram adherents,

*Collate clamours arising from different interest groups who want the apex government to administer clemency on members of the religious sect; and

*To recommend modalities for the granting of the pardon, should such step become the logical one to take under the prevailing circumstance.

 

YOU’RE NOW IN RIGHT DIRECTION BUT…, AJIBOLA TELLS JONATHAN

In the same vein, former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Prince Bola Ajibola, SAN, applauded the new move by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to consider amnesty for members of the Boko Haram group.? He said it would enable the country to do away with the security risks that had eroded its peace over the years. Ajibola had always insisted that dialogue is catalyst for resolving conflict of any nature, as he called on the President to apply it in order to get rid of the Boko Haram menace.?

In an exclusive chat with Vanguard, at his Olosegun Obasanjo Hilltop GRA home, Abeokuta, yesterday, he said as a member of a government that once ruled this country, that he had always been sad with the state of the nation in the past three years but that the setting up of a committee by the government to consider amnesty for the group was indicative of positive thing to come.

He however noted that whatever form the amnesty being planned would take that the Federal Government should ensure that it was preceded with dialogue so that the much desired solution would not be half-done.

“First and foremost, yes, amnesty, pardon whatever they call it, is okay.? But let it be preceded with dialogue.? Let them sit on the same table with you.? Let them come there and vent their grievances and, in doing so, find out what was the cause; the immediate cause and remote cause of the problem and what brought about the killing and the maiming of people – not only Christians but also Muslims and people who are even involved in the old religion at all.? Let them talk because, at the end of the day, the winner is invariably through dialogue.? We cannot run away from it,” he said. Ajibola, who is also former Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, shed more light on why he had insistently called for amnesty before now saying it was in the spirit of averting possibility of another civil war resulting from continued force-for-force in addressing the problem. His words: “If you go through force, force will aggravate force and force will continue ad-infinito, endlessly.? And it may eventually result in civil war, a conglomerate of wars and anarchy and destruction of peace and good governance in the country.? Already, it is having its effects and its tolls.? Some people are not interested in coming to Nigeria because when you take newspapers of Nigeria, you find invariably there; people who are one way or the other being killed for no just cause.? And in most cases you also have foreigners being involved, they have lost their lives. Here, there was a time that seven nationalities were involved, there was the time that United Nations House was also involved and some other countries are advising their people not to come to Nigeria. The Vision 20:2020 as a  reason “Peace is a prerequisite to development and therefore, we shall remain backward and undeveloped if we continue in this aspect of the use of force and terrorism.? It cannot help us especially as we move towards our deadline to become one of 20 most developed and biggest economies in the world by the year 2020.? We must listen to them,” he said. Citing example of why government’s new decision to work on amnesty is a welcome development, Prince Bola Ajibola pointed to the United States of America’s use of force in addressing the attacks on its World Trade Centre (WTC) and the Pentagon, which occurred on September 11, 2001 saying, if America had tried to go for dialogue to find out why it was attacked, the war in Afghanistan would not linger as it was till today. “Take for example, the whole problem that went as far as Afghanistan with the United States of America is still lingering until today. Whereas, when the 9/11 occurred in US, if they had taken the line of passive understanding asking for the reason why it happened and trying to settle the whole matter by way of dialogue, the whole thing would have died down by now.? But in actual sense, Americans are still being killed till today such that even on Sunday, certain American soldiers and their civilians were killed because force, lawlessness, ruthlessness, terrorism is always spreading; those whose parents or relations have been killed will never stop until they, themselves, have done the retaliation.? The retaliation will call for another retaliation.? It will go up endlessly and it will go on without any stop,” he said. He also cited another example in the issue Germany had against Britain and France after the First World War, that it was because the Germans were penalized and sanctioned for all those acts of the war that caused them to stand up again to fight the Second World War, which took over 70 million human beings.? “If they had taken the trouble of being considerate of effective and positive dialogue with the Germans at that time, perhaps we would not have the Second World War and we would not have a situation whereby so many people were killed in millions!? The destruction of human beings and property is one aspect of it.? The unfortunate part of it is that, it goes on with the absence of development.? Without peace, there will not be any development. “We must learn that if we want to keep our progress on in this country, we need to develop and we cannot develop in the absence of peace.? We cannot have peace if this terrorist thing is going on.? We should try as much as we can to do away with corruption because corruption is also an incitement igniting this problem going on.? We should avoid it.? We should show good example as people in government to discourage all those actions that will make people to be so deliberate on destroying other people.? It is important” Bola Ajibola said, adding that now that the government had realized, “as we have said,” that the settlement of the issue be paramount by way of seeking amnesty and dialogue, that President Jonathan by so doing was now in the right direction.

 

 

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