Eminent leaders under the platform of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have proposed that the federal government should set up a dialogue and reconciliation commission which would have full powers to negotiate and reconcile with the Boko Haram insurgents with a view to ending the current violence in the north.
The elders’ advice followed the rejection of the government’s amnesty scheme by the leadership of Ahlus SunnaLidda AwatiWal Jihad also known as Boko Haram.
In a statement issued after its well-attended meeting in Abuja yesterday, the NEF surmised that the Boko Haram members had found the word “amnesty” offensive as the government’s choice of diction to describe the peace overtures made to the sect.
Consequently, the NEF suggested that the word be dropped and replaced with “The Reconciliation Concept”, if the government really wants to the end the insurgency ravaging the north.
The NEF stressed that “the recommendation of the use of the term “Reconciliation” in place of “amnesty” is informed by the fact that it is more politically neutral and translates more into “Sulhu”, an Arabic/Hausa word that suggests full negotiation over grievances and a just and fair settlement.
It is likely to be more acceptable to the insurgents for the purposes of encouraging participation and relieve government of the liabilities of the previous amnesty programme”.
Also yesterday, the NEF proffered a nine-month action plan to stem the orgy of violence in the north.
At the heart of this blueprint is a 15-member “Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission”, which the NEF wants the federal government to inaugurate, and charged with the implementation of “The Reconciliation Concept” to end the insurgency in the north.
According to the statement issued by NEF spokesman Prof. Ango Abdullahi, “the Reconciliation Concept should be operated in such a manner that it does not imply forgiveness for crimes of any type.
It should suggest total and unconditional acceptance of insurgents and government agents currently involved in the conflict as sides with legitimate reasons and claims.
It should therefore be treated as a first step towards full resolution of the conflict”.
Under the NEF’s Reconciliation Concept, “insurgents who give up insurgency and arms will not be further investigated, prosecuted, persecuted or in any way suffer disadvantages now or in the future”.
In the first month of implementing the Reconciliation Concept, the government should publicise the programme and “set up the Reconciliation Commission”, with the president spelling out the full details of the programme’s provisions, “including the composition and powers of the Commission”.
The NEF recommended that “no government employee or security personnel in any form should be a member” of the commission, which should also have “powers to have first-line contacts with the insurgents who wish to be processed through the programme, and should be responsible for the security and welfare of the insurgents for the duration of the programme”.
In the same timeline, the commission will set up Religious/Aqida Group, which will “engage the insurgents on doctrinal issues and related matters”; the Programme and Dialogue Advocacy Group that will be charged with encouraging “insurgents to submit to the programme” and advise the commission and government on confidence-building measures”; and the Reconciliation Programme Security Group, which “will be responsible for the security of the process/programme”.
Between the second and fifth months of the proposal, the programme will see to the “commencement of dialogue with the insurgency; release of suspects who have no cases against them, women and underage detainees; relaxation of detention regime; prosecution of those people accused of killing Yusuf Muhammed (the slain Boko Haram leader); visible scaling down of JTF activities; and implementation of economic initiatives in affected communities”, among others.
In the fifth to ninth month of the NEF’s action plan, “full dialogue and negotiation, and conclusion of disarmament and demilitarisation of all (conflict) areas” will be pursed alongside addressing “other security threats which either ape Boko Haram or involve inter-communal strife” and “unveiling a three-year Economic and Social Reconstruction Blueprint” to succeed the programme.
The NEF stressed: “At the expiration of the lifespan of the programme, all activities by the insurgency will be criminalised, and the state will treat them in the manner designed to protect lives and properties of citizens, and the security of the nation.”
The northern elders urged “both the government and the insurgents to remain flexible to new ideas and suggestions by people of goodwill from within and even outside the country who are making genuine efforts to achieve peace in the nation”.
The meeting was attended by 41 members of the elders’ body. Six other members sent their apologies for their unavoidable absence.
The participants included the convener Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, former chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Muhammaed Lawal Uwais, former attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice Chief Michael Aondoaka, one-time chief justice of Nigeria Justice Dahiru Mustapha, former secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) Alhaji Gidado Idris, former chief of army staff Lt-Gen. Salihu Ibrahim, former inspector-general of the police Alhaji Ibrahim Attah, Air Marshal Alamin Daggash (rtd), former chief of army staff Gen. Ishaya Bamayi and one-time director of the State Security Service (SSS) Alhaji Sada Ilu, retired deputy inspector-general of police Uba B. Ringim, Gen. Ahmad Abdullahi, among others.
Jonathan holds Security Council meeting today
President Goodluck Jonathan will this morning preside over a meeting of the Security Council to decide on the conditions for granting amnesty to Boko Haram and the membership of the ad-hoc amnesty committee.
Two weeks ago,the Council met and set up a committee under the chairmanship of the national security adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), to determine the feasibility or otherwise of the proposed amnesty for the Boko Haram sect.
Last week, LEADERSHIP exclusively reported of the endorsement of the amnesty in a memo sent to the NSA’s office and, when the leadership of the sect rejected the offer, the service chiefs again met with the president on Friday where it was decided that the process should continue irrespective of its rejection.
Today’s meeting, according to the security sources, would deliberate on the amnesty, the conditions to be given and membership of the panel that would manage the process.Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, might be asked to preside over it while the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah, might be his deputy.
“The NSA has summoned the Security Council to a meeting with the commander-in-chief, President Jonathan, in the villa tomorrow (today) and all the programmes lined up by the military like the ongoing Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Week have been postponed.
The Council is expected to discuss the report of the committee that was constituted two weeks ago to study and recommend the possibility or otherwise of amnesty for the terrorists that have been making life unbearable for people in some states in the north,” the source said.
He further explained that “unlike what transpired at the last meeting when there were some reservations over the issue, especially by the service chiefs, today’s meeting would deliberate on the conditions to be met by the repentant terrorists and constitute the committee that would be in charge of the task’’.
Asked to name members on the list, the source said the Sultan, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Prof. Ango Abdullahi and representatives of Borno, Yobe, Kaduna, Kano and Bauchi states could make it.
The Sultan last night led some eminent northern traditional rulers to a closed-door meeting with President Jonathan at the presidential villa.
Although the details of the meeting were still sketchy as at 11pm, sources said it was in connection with the ongoing efforts to ensure that the amnesty initiative remained on course.
Amnesty: nothing is impossible – Sultan
Despite Boko Haram’s rejection of the amnesty offer, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, yesterday said that nothing was impossible in the world.
The Sultan, who spoke at the presidential villa after the submission of the report of the 2012 Amirul Hajj as the leader of the federal government delegation was, at first, reluctant to comment on the issue.
He emerged from the president’s office after submitting the report and was somewhat amazed when he was greeted by curious State House correspondents who waited to get his reaction on the rejection of the amnesty option by the insurgents.
As he walked passed them, thinking he had beaten them to it with the aid of his palace guards, journalists followed him adamantly, insisting that he address them on the matter.
When it dawned on him that the reporters would not want to let go, the Sultan simply said, “Nothing is impossible in this world.”
He had earlier told President Jonathan that the delegation made a request for government to continue to provide concessionary exchange rate to the pilgrims as a demonstration of its support, goodwill and assistance towards Hajj.
This, he said, was an important religious obligation for the Muslims, even as he added that the delegation also recommended the revival of the presidential committee on illegal Nigerian migrants in Saudi Arabia constituted in 2009 to check the widening cases of anti-social crimes involving Nigerians in the holy land.
The Sultan-led delegation also recommended that the federal government should assist the Hajj Commission with further funding in order to complete the long-abandoned Hajj reception centres operating as camps across the country.
President Jonathan, who commended the delegation for the successes recorded by the pilgrimage, noted that government would consider the report.
“We have noted the issues that have been raised, especially on the exchange rate and the rising crime rate of Nigerians living in Saudi Arabia who do not go there for religious obligations. We have to see how to work with Saudi Arabian authorities to reduce that because it is bringing some stains to the image of this country,” he said.
Nigerian constitution too weak to check insurgency – FG
The federal government yesterday declared that its alleged failure to address the current insurgency was not the absence of political will but thefundamental flaws in Nigeria’s constitution.
Opening a five-day technical training on “Principle and Practice of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)” for peace officers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Abuja, minister of interior Comrade Abba Moro said the rigid nature of the Nigerian constitution makes its amendment processes difficult and leaves some of the laws out of touch with realities.
Moro said changing the structure of the country’s constitution was difficult because of the people’s flawed understanding of their history, especially the origin of the founding document.
He said: “The rigid face of our constitution makes amendment processes difficult and by implication leaves some of our laws not catching up with some realities. These challenges cannot overcome the merits of democracy in any way.”
Represented at the event by the permanent secretary in the ministry, Mrs Anastasia Daniel Nwabia, he said the government’s decision to adopt structured peace process, which involves dialogue, mediation/intervention (civil option), peace-making and peace-building to nip insurgency and other violence in the bud, would usher peace and progress in the country.
He pledged that the federal government would not relent in its resolve to ensure better equipped conflict managers and put instruments in place to facilitate the processes of building positive peace in the country.
Earlier, the director-general, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Dr. Joseph Golwa, noted that the training was aimed at empowering participants with best practice in public and private conflicts management without instigating a crisis.
No governor in touch with Boko Haram – Shehu Sani
Rights activist Mallam Shehu Sani yesterday picked holes in public declarations by some northern governors that they had opened contacts with the Boko Haram sect over the amnesty offered them by the federal government.
Sani told journalists in Kaduna that “no governor is in touch with the sect”.
He said that dishing out money to the insurgents as done in the case of the Niger Delta militants to end militancy cannot be applicable to Boko Haram sect because they are neither demanding money nor fighting for financial interests.
Last year, Sani acted as a mediator in talks between former president Olusegun Obasanjo and members of the Boko Haram sect. The talks however did not yield the desired results as the parties did not press on with the parley.
Sani stated yesterday that the federal government-proposed amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect was dead on arrival.
Comrade Sani, who doubles as the president of the Civil Right Congress of Nigeria, said that “the fundamental issue is, you cannot give amnesty to people that do not want it; you want to give something and somebody said he doesn’t want it, and so what happens? I think we have failed in this amnesty scheme because of the wrong steps we have taken.
First of all, they set up a committee and nobody knew who its members were.
If you set up a committee with people of high level and it does not have access to the leadership of Boko Haram, you are simply wasting your time”.
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