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Boko Haram: 5,000 Members May Get Amnesty

Written By Joseph Y. Musa on Saturday, April 20, 2013 | 4/20/2013 09:58:00 am

Over 5,000 as well as their wives and children members of the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram, may benefit from the proposed Federal Government amnesty for members of the group.

KURAMO NEWS  learnt that members of the Federal Government’s amnesty committee would, among other things, recommend a phased release of members of the sect currently in detention.

It was gathered that children and wives of the sect members would be released first before other detainees.

This, it was gathered, would assist the committee and the Federal Government in winning the confidence of the sect.

The committee, which is to be inaugurated on Wednesday next week, is expected to initiate dialogue with leaders of the sect at a yet-to-be determined date, time and venue.

KURAMO NEWS also gathered that members of the group, who earlier rejected government amnesty plans, have  yet to make public their response to the latest development.

A top security source, who pleaded for anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue,  said, “Some wives, children and relatives of members of the sect are among those being detained.

“The government may start with the release of this category of people as a sign of its commitment to peace. I believe members of this committee will be favourably disposed to making this recommendation.”

As for the venue of talks should members of the sect accept dialogue, the source said, “They may opt for Saudi Arabia or any other country they consider a neutral ground, like they did in the past. This is because they still cannot trust that government will not use the venue of the talks to further hunt them down.

“Trust is still a big issue here; the question remains whether the sect will trust that government will be sincere this time around and not resort to behaviours that led to the breakdown of similar attempts in the past.

“Just like those in government, they also have hardliners. This group of members are likely to give near impossible conditions such as the rebuilding of their homes and places of worship destroyed by government forces and the like. ”

The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, had in Kaduna last month urged the Federal Government to give amnesty to the sect members.

The call was echoed by a number of prominent Nigerians.

It has, however, been strongly opposed by the Christian Association of Nigeria.

President Goodluck Jonathan had few weeks ago said his administration would not hold talks with members of the sect, whom he described as ‘ghosts’.

But after some meetings with northern elders and security chiefs, the President promised to set up an amnesty committee for Boko Haram.

The President made good his promise on Wednesday by naming a 26-member amnesty committee headed by the Minister of Special Duties, KabiruTuraki.

Two members of the committee, Shehu Sani and Dr, Datti Ahmed, rejected their nomination on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

A leading member of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, confirmed that 5,000 Boko Haram fighters were likely to benefit from the amnesty.

He also debunked the notion that Boko Haram members are faceless.

Abdullahi said, “We cannot say these people are absent because about 5,000 of them are in detention. You (journalists) are the ones reporting that (Boko Haram) commanders so, so, and so have been arrested.

“So we agree that there are senior commanders in detention and I think there is this opportunity even for physical contact between the group and some members of the group and government.

“Most reasonable opinions agree that the use of force will not solve this problem. The way forward is to encourage dialogue; it may be difficult at first, but we must try everything possible to encourage interactions between members of the group and the committee.”

Asked whether the Northern Elders Forum would be involved in the talks, he said the committee wouldn’t decide which role groups and individuals would play.

He added that members of the NEF were prepared to help restore peace to the North.

However, a civil rights activist who declined to serve on the committee, Malam Shehu Sani expressed doubts about the possibility of success for the committee.

Sani said, “I have not seen people in that committee whom members of the sect will trust enough to dialogue with.

“A committee headed by a serving minister does not look to me as serious. For this committee to make progress, these three people must be part of it: Ahmed Shilkida (a freelance journalist), Hamza Idris and Mustapha Zanna. If these people are not part of the committee, it is difficult for it to succeed.”
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