Friday, November 02, 2012

Boko Haram Gives Terms for Talks With Nigerian Government

Boko Haram gives terms for talks with government

Thursday, 01 November 2012 20:44
From Madu Onuorah, John-Abba Ogbodo, Lemmy Ughegbe (Abuja), Francis Obinor (Lagos), John Ogiji (Minna) and Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri)
Nigerian Guardian

• Picks Buhari, others for dialogue in S’ Arabia

• Seeks compensation, release of members, others

• Amnesty, security agents disagree on killings

AFTER about three years of keeping the country on the brink of disintegration owing to the violence it regularly inflicted on it, Boko Haram may have decided to dialogue with the Federal Government.

But the group wants the dialogue to hold on its terms. It says the talks should take place in Saudi Arabia, it should be paid compensation and former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff who was arrested by the police in connection with the activities of the group, and its members being held should be released.

Former Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), is among top northerners the group has chosen to negotiate on its behalf with the Federal and Borno State Governments.

The conditions of negotiation were disclosed yesterday in Maiduguri by the newly appointed spokesman of Boko Haram, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz in a tele-conference with reporters.

He said: “To bring an end to these attacks, bombings, killings and arrests of our members in Nigeria, we have been mandated by our
leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau, to appoint high members, elders and others from the North-East sub-region to dialogue with the Borno State and Federal Governments of Nigeria in a neutral state of Saudi Arabia.”

He said five members of the group were mandated to liaise with a five-member committee of Borno elders to dialogue with the Federal Government.

The Nigerian mediators, according to him, include Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno, Buhari, Sen. Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Amb. Gaji Galtimari and Aisha Wakil and her husband.

On a neutral centre for the dialogue, Abdulaziz said: “We insist on having the dialogue in Saudi Arabia, because the Federal Government has betrayed us on two different occasions… The committee members for dialogue comprise my humble self, Abu Mohammed Abdulaziz, Shiek Abu Abass, Shiek Ibrahim Yusuf, Shiek Sani Kontagora and Mamman Nur.”

He said: “We are not after anything, but the Federal Government should fulfill three conditions on which the announced dialogue could commence.

Compensation of our members is one of the three main conditions for this dialogue with government, while the immediate past Governor of Borno State, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff arrested by the police and … our members incarcerated in various prisons in the country (should be released).

This will also facilitate dialogue with the Federal Government in the holy land of Saudi Arabia. If the Federal Government likes peace we will appreciate it and we should be compensated.”

The compensation, he added, should be made directly by the Federal Government.

He, however, noted that armed bandits, hoodlums and assassins hide under the cover of Boko Haram to attack, kill people, torch schools, telecoms masts and public buildings.

Asked about the group’s relationship with the media, Abdulaziz said: “We don’t have any problem with the Nigerian press. They should however, not write what we did not say to the press. I am now appointed second in command of the Boko Haram sect spokesman.”

Also, it was learnt that some suspected members of Boko Haram who were recently arrested in Minna, Niger State capital by a combined team of military and police anti- terrorist squad in connection with bomb factories in the suburb of Minna, have confessed to the killings of policemen in parts of the state in recent times.

No fewer than seven policemen have been killed by gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram while on their duty posts at various locations in Minna and other parts of the state in the last five months.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Desire Nsirim disclosed this in Minna on Wednesday during an interactive session with the top management workers of the state’s Ministry of Livestock/Fisheries led by its Commissioner, Dr. Isah Yahaya Vatsa when she paid a familiarisation visit to the ministry.

However, in a damning report, the Amnesty International yesterday carpeted Nigerian security outfits over their response to acts of terrorism masterminded by Boko Haram, saying that the forces’ response was a sorry continuation of the cycle of violence.

In the report released in Abuja by the Secretary General of the global body Salil Shetty, it noted the atrocious acts of the dreaded sect and decried the serious human rights violations perpetrated by Nigerian security operatives in response to these acts of terrorism, including enforced disappearance, torture, extra-judicial executions, torching of homes and detention without trials.

The report titled “Nigeria: Trapped in the circle of violence,” documents these violent acts by Boko Haram and the response of the Nigerian security forces against persons suspected to be members of the group.

Presenting the report in Abuja, Shetty noted that the “cycle of attack and counter attack had been marked by unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle.

“People are living in climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them,” Shetty stated.

The secretary general observed that gross human rights abuses including murder, burning down schools and churches and attacking media houses and journalists had been committed by Boko Haram.

The report documents the increasing climate of fear where people are too scared to report crimes and journalists would not cover them out of fear for their own safety.

The report condemns security agencies, which it claims, acted with little regard for rule of law and human rights in their actions targeting Boko Haram elements.

But the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has expressed concern over the report compiled by Amnesty International on human rights situation in the country.

A statement by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mabah, yesterday said in view of the seriousness attached to the report by the police, it had begun a critical study with a view to establishing its veracity or otherwise.

The statement read: “A recent Amnesty International report dated November, 2012 has just been received by relevant authority of the Nigeria Police. As a responsible law enforcement agency, the Nigeria Police Force takes all criticisms against its organisation seriously.

Consequently, the Police Authority has begun a comprehensive and critical study of the report with a view to establishing its veracity and relevance vis-à-vis our contemporary security challenges and needs.

“Bearing in mind that the Force has no monopoly of knowledge, the Police High Command (on the strength of the report) will not hesitate to accept honest and factual recommendations (if any) contained therein and initiate appropriate reforms where necessary.

“However, the Force is deeply concerned over a key research methodology adopted by Amnesty International in compiling its report.

The fact that most of the sources of the content of the report are “not named”, (and thus not open to confirmation or reconciliation) puts the authenticity, credibility and legitimacy of the report in question.”

In the same vein, the Nigerian military yesterday dismissed the report of the Amnesty International.

The Director, Defence Information, Col. Muhammed Yerima told The Guardian yesterday that “there is no truth whatsoever in what Amnesty International said in regard to the role security forces have been playing in the fight against the Boko Haram group.

The report is biased and unsubstantiated. You cannot have a report like this without interviewing Boko Haram or the security forces and you just pick your stories on the streets and come up with a cooked story and say that the Nigerian security forces have violated the human rights of Boko Haram members or that the security forces are involved in human rights abuses.”

On the accusation by Amnesty International that the military has been carrying out detention without trial, Yerima explained that “if we arrest any of the suspects, either during stop and search operation or during encounter with armed groups, we will first of all interview them on whether they are members of Boko Haram or not. And members of the security forces like the State Security Services and the Police join as it is a combined interrogation.

After sifting the information, if the person is involved in any criminal activity, we will hand him over to the police for prosecution. If he is not, we release him. We don’t keep people unnecessarily or longer than necessary.

“As for the accusation of extra-judicial killings, being caught in a crossfire is not extra-judicial killings. It is unfortunate. It can happen to anybody, either it hits us, passersby or the members of the Boko Haram. When it is extra-judicial killing, you are talking of tying a person down or handcuffing somebody and killing him. That is unfair and unnecessary. And it is against international tenets. The issue of crossfire can happen anywhere in the world. But the truth of the matter is that such casualties are not intentional or intended. Nobody, not the security forces, are there on duty to kill anyone like that.”

Author of this article: From Madu Onuorah, John-Abba Ogbodo, Lemmy Ughegbe (Abuja), Francis Obinor (Lagos), John Ogiji (Minna) and Njadvara Musa (Maiduguri)

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