Sunday, March 31, 2013

Disquiet In Nigerian Presidency Over Northern Amnesty Proposal for Boko Haram

Boko Haram: Disquiet in Presidency as North backs Sultan over amnesty

Posted by: Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, Sunday Oguntola (Lagos) and Shola O’Neil (Warri) on March 31, 2013
Nigerian Nation

• South-South leaders oppose proposal
• NSA opens talks with Algeria, Mauritania, others

In spite of the position of the Presidency, Northern leaders are supporting the recommendation of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad for granting amnesty to leaders of Islamist Boko Haram sect.

The support is causing anxiety in government following fears that Northern leaders might not be keen in collaborating with the administration in tackling the insurgent menace.

It was also gathered that the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) had just returned from Algeria as part of steps to seek the support of neighbouring countries where Boko Haram leaders have purportedly relocated to.

But a former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, yesterday raised it alarm that the insurgency was is getting out of hand.

Musa said the insurgency has reached a level that it would amount to a waste of time for President Goodluck Jonathan to be waiting for the leaders of the group to come out before he grants them amnesty.

Investigations show that Northern governors, Emirs, opinion and political leaders are backing the Sultan’s call for amnesty.

It was gathered that the Northern leaders were unhappy that the government did not take time to debrief the Sultan on the evidence at his disposal before rejecting his suggestion.

There were indications that the Sultan might have privileged information on the way out of the Boko Haram menace.

A top source who is in support of the Sultan’s call said: “The truth is that since the Sultan demanded amnesty for Boko Haram leaders, many Northern governors, leaders and Emirs have been backing him.

“Already, some Northern leaders have been angry that Sultan’s recommendation was just dismissed with a wave of hand by the President.

“They think the government needs to take a second look at Sultan’s suggestion or else it might end up not enjoying the support of the North in addressing the menace.

“Yet, there is no way the government can solve the Boko Haram challenge without the involvement of Northerners.”

But it was learnt that the National Security Adviser had been trying to persuade Northern leaders to appreciate that the President is not opposed to dialogue with the sect leaders.

Another source said: “The NSA has been making them to realize that the President is only after a well-tailored amnesty programme not just mere mouthing of such option.

“Dasuki said these Northern leaders should take cognizance of the fact that the government opted for dialogue option when he came on board and that was why he embarked on shuttles to all the troubled spots in the North and key opinion leaders.”

As at press time, it was gathered that Dasuki had just returned from a trip to Algeria to plead for collaboration against Boko Haram following intelligence report that most of the wanted leaders of the sect are holed up in the desert nation.

A reliable security chief added: “In the last few weeks, Nigeria has been trying to open up talks with strategic neighbours. Besides leading a team to France, the NSA had collaborative talks with Algeria, Mauritania, Chad and Niger Republic.

“The exchange with neighbouring countries was necessitated by intelligence reports that both Boko Haram and Ansaru leaders are now operating outside Nigeria.”

But speaking with our correspondent yesterday, Musa, a former Kaduna State governor, asked Jonathan to have a rethink and declare amnesty for Boko Haram leaders.

He said: “The security situation is getting out of hand; it seems to be slipping off the control of security agencies. The Sultan is talking for Nigeria, not the North. President Goodluck Jonathan should give amnesty a deep thought.

“If this Boko Haram crisis is not solved, it will spread to all parts of the country. Let me remind you of the Nigerian civil war in the late 60s. At a point, the late Biafran leader, Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu took control of the South-East and the South-South. When he was almost seizing the Mid-West in order to march to the South-West, all Nigerians knew that there was a major challenge at hand.

“The situation has reached such a level that asking the Boko Haram leaders to come out as the President had done is a waste of time.”

He asked, “How can he (president) say that these sect leaders are faceless when he is the chief security officer of the country, when he has so many of them in detention, and when the nation spends a quarter of its budget on security and defence?

“Secondly, Boko Haram leaders are already in detention. By now they should know those behind the sect. The President is not a market leader and he has to be in charge. He said in his own words that Boko Haram members are in his government. If he is unable to dialogue with them, then it is his fault.

“Those who are calling for dialogue are actually saving his government. Let him use those in detention to identify the leaders of Boko Haram and open dialogue with them.

When Yar’Adua realized the Niger Delta crisis was getting out of hand he did not wait for a long time to declare amnesty. And more militants came out to embrace amnesty than it was initially imagined. Why can’t he do the same thing unless some forces in government are behind Boko Haram.”

Despite what appears to be growing Northern consensus, leading Niger-Delta leaders are rising against the amnesty calls.

President of Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta, Prof Kimse Okoko, has kicked against it.

According to him, the sect had wasted too many lives and shown no remorse or commitment to dialogue.

“Boko Haram is an insurgency that I find difficult to reconcile with the calls for amnesty. It is an ongoing insurgency and these people have not laid down their arms so how can we even consider dialogue, let alone amnesty?’’

He argued that advocates of amnesty should remember members of the sect have not embraced dialogue or negotiation under any guise.

The former President of Ijaw National Congress (INC) also punctured claims by Northerners that the Niger Delta region is deriving too much from the federation.

He stated that compared with the environmental degradation and massive fund contributions to the federation account, what the Niger Delta region receives as allocations is grossly inadequate.

Okoko said: “People should not be making these unscientific statements. If you look at the deprivations in our region and what we contribute to the nation, you discover we really do not get much.

“The only road linking the region, the East-West road has not been constructed after several decades. We have not been compensated for all that we are suffering and there is no commensurable returns for what we contribute.’’

He said such arguments would have been needless if Nigeria were practising true federalism.

“These people talking are politicians who do not have a clear idea of what is at stake. We are talking development while they are politicking. Let’s control our resources and then we see who is really who.’’

Other prominent leaders from the Niger Delta region have faulted Kano State Governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, over his perceived justification of Boko Haram violence and his call for amnesty for members of the Islamic sect.

Ms. Ann Kio Briggs of the Ijaw Republican Assembly, former MEND leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, the Izon-Ebe Oil Producing Communities Forum (IOPCF) and pioneer Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, (TROMPCON) Pere Charles Ayemi Botu, yesterday reacted angrily to statements credited to the governor.

IOPCF President, Mr. Edougha Moses, accused the governor and other prominent northern politicians of hiding under the violence of Boko Haram to unleash mayhem on hapless Nigerians in order to score cheap political points.

He said, “The North should also know that using religion as a cover up to cause destruction of lives and properties with the ill motive of distracting President Goodluck Jonathan can no longer be acceptable to the oil and gas producing communities. The insecurity in the nation is hatched by evil machinations of those who wish (for) Nigeria’s disintegration.”

Ayemi-Botu said Kwankwaso’s statement is in tandem with his “anti-Niger Delta antecedents.” While noting that the Kano State Governor has a history of being against the people of the oil bearing communities, said the statement was also an eye-opener on the sponsors of the violence bedevilling the country.

He said northern politicians are behind the plot to make the country ungovernable having lost power.

“Kwankwaso could be one those sponsoring Boko Haram. It is an irony of fate that somebody of his status could open his mouth to incite a section of the country against the other. Is it because they think Niger Delta is getting too much that they want to use Boko Haram to tear the country apart?”

He cautioned that the magnanimity of the Niger Delta people should not be taking for granted.

Media aide to Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), Paul Bebenimibo, decried the statement by the governor, describing it as careless and capable of plunging the country into another civil war.

He said: “It is unfortunate that Kwankwaso has a history of making very careless statement. It was he who recently advised Ibos to leave Kano State because government could no longer protect them.”

Ms Ann KioBriggs also lambasted Kwankwaso for making statements unbecoming of his position and status, stressing that his utterance seems to justify violence as a means of objecting to perceived injustice.

She noted “Is he (Kwankwaso) saying that it is also not unjust that we suffer environmental degradation from oil exploration, that it is unfair that Bayelsa, which produce oil, has only eight local government areas while Kano has 44?

“I want to tell him it is not fair that Kano has 44 local government areas while Bayelsa which produces the money he is using to develop Kano and running of the 44 LGAs, has only eight. I want to tell him that that is not fair.”

She said the position of Kwankwaso suggests that that Igbo, Yoruba and other ethnic groups should take up arms and hack hapless Nigerians to untimely death whenever they are displeased with government’s policies.

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