By Ben Agande, DAPO AKINREFON, CHARLES KUMOLU & GBENGA OKE
ABUJA— Mixed reactions yesterday trailed the constitution by President Goodluck Jonathan, of a Committee that will engage key members of Boko Haram in a dialogue with a view to finding a lasting solution to security challenges in the North, even as a member of the 26-man committee, Mallam Shehu Sani has rejected his appointment.
A statement by the special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben abati, yesterday, said the 26-member Committee is headed by the Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki and is expected to develop a framework that could lead to disarmament and compensation for victims of the Boko Haram insurgency within 60 days.
Rejecting the offer to serve on the committee, the President of Civil Rights Congress, Mallam Shehu Sani in a statement he posted on his facebook page said: “My friends called me this afternoon to inform me that they saw my name on the list of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty.
This is to thank our president for giving me such an honour and consideration. However, I humbly and respectably wish to decline to serve as a member. My advice remains: Reach out to the persons I mentioned their names in my interviews in the dailies to discreetly consult with the group to get their input on the idea”.
Sani recommends Salkida
While some of Sani’s friends on Facebook urged him to accept the offer if he truly cares for the masses, others hailed his decision.
Sani in an exclusive interview last Sunday, said only a freelance journalist, Mallam Ahmed Salkida, who has constantly had interviews with Boko Haram leaders, will be able to mediate and bring about true amnesty. Salkida is not on the committee. Sani, however, argued that Salkida would be in a better position to dialogue with the Boko Haram leaders than the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar111.
He said Salkida must definitely be in any committee that would meet with the Boko Haram leaders for the committee to succeed. But when reminded that Salkida had fled the country, he replied: “Nigerians should ask themselves questions. Why should such a person flee when he has made sacrifices and even offered to arrange the first meeting directly with the Boko Haram group? Such a Nigerian should be encouraged if he has access to Boko Haram and these people trust him; why don’t we bring him and make him Chairman of the committee? Must he be a billionaire? Must he be a politician or is it because he is a journalist? Didn’t they know that sometimes a solution to a problem may just be before you? I know the kind of effort and sacrifice that man has put in.”
They should focus on issues—Afenifere
On its part, pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere advised members of the committee to focus on bringing an end to the Boko Haram insurgency. In a chat with Vanguard, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “Looking through the committee’s set up, there are some credible names in that committee who should know what to do. It depends on the chairman that is going to lead this committee. If the committee is to look holistically at Boko Haram, what led to the insurgency, how to interface with the group and bring an end to this crisis and also address the issues that led to Boko Haram, all well and good. But if it is another committee to facilitate another scam without addressing the issues that led to the problems, it will be a sheer waste of time.”
It’s a hopeless quest—Sagay
Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, said the quest by the Federal Government is a hopeless one since members of the sect have rejected amnesty.
In a chat with Vanguard, Sagay said: “I have no objection to anyone being a member of the committee. My only question is: What is the point when the Boko Haram itself feels that it is the government that should be given amnesty rather than the other way round? In other words, they are totally unrepentant, infact, they are not sober, they are self righteous and they are prepared to continue massacring people and destroying property and so on and they want a dream Islamic republic which they know nothing about. So, I think it is just a hopeless quest, that is the way I see it. There is no basis for it.”
It’s a waste of time and resources – Mohammed
In his reaction, Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed said the Federal Government is wasting its time by setting up an amnesty committee before getting the Boko Haram members for discussion.
His words: “The setting up of amnesty committee is a bloody waste of time and resources by the Federal Government because government has failed to get the group to the table for discussion, so who are they going to discuss with?
“Even the Boko Haram members have rebuffed the Federal Government, that government owes them an apology. Yet government has gone ahead with the so called amnesty committee and my question is to speak with who and discuss with who?”
FG should ensure safety of sect members—Tsav
Also speaking, a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav said: “I don’t know the terms of the committee, but what I am saying is that Boko Haram members should come out and talk to the government. They should tell the nation why they have been doing what they are doing.
But the government should guaran tee the safety of the sect members when they come out. They must ensure that nothing happens to them. We all know that the leader of the sect was killed in Maiduguri and after then we now have political Boko Haram, religious Boko Haram and criminal Boko Haram.
Amnesty has a precedent in the Niger Delta which was to last for a short time, but is still regrettably on with nothing on ground to show for it. We are all aware of what MEND is doing at the moment. So, the government should speak to them and ensure that they are re-integrated into the society.”
A statement by the special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, yesterday, said the 26-member Committee on engagement with members of the Boko Haram sect is headed by the Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki.
Abati said: “President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the constitution of a Presidential Committee to constructively engage key members of Boko Haram and define a comprehensive and workable framework for resolving the crisis of insecurity in the country.
“The Committee’s terms of reference will include developing a framework for the granting of amnesty; setting up of a framework through which disarmament could take place within a 60-day time frame; the development of a comprehensive victims’ support programme, and the development of mechanisms to address the underlying causes of insurgencies that will help to prevent future occurrences” he said.
Other members of the committee include Sheik Ahmed Lemu, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Col. Musa Shehu (rtd.), N Sheik Abubakar Tureta and Dr.Datti Ahmed.
They also include Senator Sodangi Abubakar, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Hon. Mohammed Bello Matawalle, Amb. Zakari Ibrahim, Comrade Shehu Sani, Hajiya Naja’atu Mohammed, Malam Adamu S. Ladan, Dr. Joseph Golwa, AVM A. I Shehu, Mr. R. I. Nkemdirim, DIG P. I. Leha, Prof. Nur Alkali, Malam Salihu Abubakar, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Lugga, Barrister Ibrahim Tahir, Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo, Amb. Baba Ahmed Jidda, Group Capt. Bilal Bulama, Rtd, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and a Representative of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who will serve as Secretary of the committee.
Committee on small arms
Speaking on the constitution of the committee on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, the Presidential spokesman said it was in keeping with President Jonathan pledge that Nigeria will work with the United Nations and other countries to stem the worrisome proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and their use in creating insecurity and instability in Nigeria and other developing nations.
The committee on the proliferation of small arms is headed by Amb. Emmanuel Imohe and include Amb. Martin I. Uhomoibhi, Amb. T. D Hart Amb. Ghali Umar.
Other members include Amb. B.G. Wakil and Mr. Opelusi Olureti.
The committee will also be made up of Representative of Ministry of Interior, Representative of National SecurityAdviser,Representative of Director General of the Department of Security Service; Representative of National Intelligence Agency, NIA and Representative of Federal Ministry of Justice.
The rest include Representative of Ministry of Defence; Representative of Defence Intelligence Agency; Representative of the Nigeria Police Force, Representative of the Nigerian Customs Service; Representative of Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation while the Director, International Organisations Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will serve as Secretary of the committee.
Dr Abati explained that both committees will be formally inaugurated by President Jonathan on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.