By KINGSLEY OMONOBI/CHRIS OCHAYI/CALEB AYANSINA
ABUJA—The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, yesterday, hailed the Federal Government’s decision to proscribe Boko Haram and Ansaru Islamic fundamentalist sects, saying the action was long overdue.
This came on a day Defence headquarters said 49 suspected Boko Haram terrorists were apprehended in various locations in Yobe State by troops, following a tip off by locals in some communities.
Also, the faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, led by Maxi Okwu, has lent its voice to those commending President Goodluck Jonathan over the proscription of Boko Haram and its splinter group, Ansaru, declaring their activities illegal and acts of terrorism.
The national Christian body also called for immediate dissolution of Boko Haram amnesty committee on the ground that it had become irrelevant.
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, issued a statement outlawing the Jamaatu Ahlis-Sunna Liddaawati Wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, and Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, also known as Ansaru, who unleashed mayhem on the polity in the northern axis of the country, with 20 years jail term for anybody associating with them.
The General Secretary of CAN, Rev. Musa Asake, articulated the association’s position while speaking with Vanguard, shortly after a press conference on the launching of a nationwide campaign for the restoration of core values in the society, coming up on July 14, in Abuja.
He said: “CAN has always had one position; it has always believed that these groups should have been designated before this time.
“CAN President has spoken on this and he got opposition from people, even when he addressed the congress of United States, he came back home, and some people were even saying he should be arrested, but we thank God that we are alive today to witness what Pastor Oritsejafor said is true.
“The federal government was very slow but thank God, now the government has woken up from its own sleep, to know that these are evil groups who do not know God.
“They were killing Christians, burning down churches, people were not saying much, the so-called northern elders were not saying much, but God has unveiled them. We now known that these are criminals, these are just blood-thirsty people, they don’t mean well for Nigeria.
“If you see the unveiling of the bushes, where they have their syringes, they drug themselves; they have condoms, for what? These are the people that want to replace the constitution of the country with Sharia, to do away with churches.
“Federal government, thank you for the step you have taken, even though it is late, it is better late than never.”
On the N1.1b ransom placed on Shekau by the United States government, Rev. Asake said it was belated, adding that their action at the beginning of the insurgence was lackadaisical.
“The US is coming too late. They were trying to behave as if this issue was not very serious, because it was not touching them. But I believe that there were some influential Nigerians from the north that tried to dissuade the US,” he said.
The CAN scribe said with the latest development, the amnesty committee was no longer relevant and should, therefore, be dissolved, and urged Christians not to cease praying for the country.
“CAN has been consisted right from the beginning. We don’t need amnesty committee. We called on the federal government that it was going to waste taxpayers’ money, but they did not listen.
“Now, tell me what is that committee doing now, what are they going to do, when the groups are running away and their evil act are discovered. We are fascinated. It is only General Buhari who is trying to defend them. We don’t need any amnesty committee,” Rev. Asake maintained.
Speaking on theme of the campaign; ‘Be the Change You Want to See’, the Director in-charge of national issues for CAN, Rev. William Okoye, said the programme was designed to encourage all Christians return to sound biblical discipline which would lead them to be examples of what they preached, taught and carried on the crusade to the larger society.
He said: “Lack of purposeful leadership has been identified to be the heart of Nigeria’s problems. The need for a new breed of courageous and visionary leaders of integrity, who are able to lead transformation in all spheres of society, is therefore both critical and urgent.
“Today, our country gropes in the dark, looking for a new dawn. The church is expected to play a prominent role in her rebirth, reformation and reconstruction through a redefinition of the nation’s morality, code of conduct and discipline.
“These are achievable if the church places greater emphasis on sound biblical teachings and values.”
Meanwhile, the Defence headquarters has said 49 suspected Boko Haram terrorists were apprehended in various locations in Yobe State by troops, following a tip off by locals in some communities.
A statement signed by the Director of Public Relations, Brig-General Chris Olukolade, noted that the arrests which were made during cordon and search operation, also witnessed the recovery of various weapon.
Olukolade said weapons such as AK 47 rifles, locally made pistols and ammunition were recovered by the troops who combed such villages as Rugan Fulani, Arikime, Afghanistan and Ngandu villages”.
He said: “Police stations are now being reopened in some parts of Borno State. At Kirenowa, detachments of Police Anti-Terrorist unit have been deployed to complement security in the area.
“A key terrorist who specializes in recruiting young men into the Boko Haram fold has been apprehended by troops in Maiduguri following a tip off.
“The same individual who also watches over the insurgents’ armoury was arrested in one of the cordon and search operations by the special forces.
“Another group of five insurgents, all Nigeriens were arrested when troops stormed their hideout at Mallam Fatori as they attempted to escape in two Toyota Cruiser Jeeps.
“Troops continue to patrol the notorious Sambisa forest and are also cordoning the Alou forest and Gwoza hills. More abandoned vehicles, weapons and other items are being recovered in the camps of the insurgents.
“Among the recent finds are rifles, double barrel guns, various charms and amulets, machine guns as well as pairs of camouflage uniforms, bows and quiver and assorted rifle magazine”.
“Others are handset, walkie-talkie, car number plates and some food items. Abandoned vehicles recovered include a Golf Car, a Honda, Customs Pickup Van, Honda (2003 Model) and a Volkswagen Monte Carlo.”
The feat of restoring peace to Yobe State and arrest of 49 terrorists with the help of locals was broken to the Defence Headquarters Operation Assessment Team in Damaturu.
The team, led by Air Commodore BE Inyang, was also informed that all the camps of the terrorists in the area had been dislodged as some of the insurgents fled towards Niger Republic.
The DHQ team was also informed of a trend where some particular crimes had now taken the place of terrorism as the criminals now resort to brigandage, robbery and attempted assassination of business rivals.
Similarly, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, faction led by Maxi Okwu has lent its voice to those commending President Goodluck Jonathan over the proscription of Boko Haram and its splinter group Ansaru and declaring their activities illegal and acts of terrorism.
Okwu, the factional national chairman, in a statement issued by his Senior Media Assistant, Francis Ede, described Dr. Jonathan’s action as bold, decisive and courageous.
The party said: “We affirm that the President’s action which is pursuant to Section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 (as amended) is not only timely and in tandem with efforts of the Federal Government to checkmate the horror and unmitigated calamities which these groups and their collaborators have unleashed on innocent Nigerians.
“The action of Mr. President has also vindicate our earlier position on this matter that no government anywhere in the world would fight terrorism with kid gloves and succeed; that governments all over the world given the international collaboration and dimension of terrorism should close ranks and share intelligence and strategy in the fight against this hydra headed monster that has afflicted the world.
“This summation informed our earlier commendation of Mr. President’s stand on the matter during his official state visit to Yobe and Borno States a few months ago when he affirmed that his government would not fold hands while its citizens, including security officials were being slaughtered with impunity. We agreed with Mr. President then as at now, aware that it is only such decisive action that can save us from this scourge.
“We also wish to thank the government of the United States of America for its intervention in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria.”