The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, his Eminence Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, has appealed to members of Boko Haram sect to end their killings and accept the amnesty initiative planned the President.
NSCIA made the appeal in a communique issued by council, at the end of a meeting in Kaduna on Thursday.
The Islamic fundamentalist had in a statement rejected the planned amnesty offer by the President saying that they’ve “not committed any wrong to deserve amnesty.”
The council condemned the massacres in Baga and Bama, which it described as heinous crimes against humanity, and called on the federal government to immediately, set up a judicial commission of inquiry to ensure that justice is done.
It also frowned at the continual failure of the state and federal governments to implement the white paper of their commissions/panels of inquiry on various ethno-religious crises and conflicts in the country.
The Supreme Islamic Council in Nigeria also called on the federal government to immediately restore normalcy and ensure enduring peace and security by resettling and protecting Muslims that have been “unjustly displaced in crisis ridden areas.”
According to the NSCIA, the places where unrest has affected Muslims include; Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi state, scores of villages in Wase local government in Plateau state as well as in southern Kaduna where Muslims had been massively massacred sequel to the 2011 general elections.
The national leader the Congress for Equality and Change, Chief Edwin Clark has asked President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the proposed amnesty for members of the fundamentalist sect; Boko Haram is not left in the realms of speculations or ambiguity.
The Ijaw leader advised that there should be a wider stakeholder consultation before arriving at the modalities necessary for the preconditions to grant amnesty to Boko Haram members.
Chief Clark also warned that deliberate steps should be taken to ensure that the move does not constitute an incentive for unpatriotic elements or groups to cash in on criminality and seek refuge in amnesty.
He further urged the federal government to consider the creation of special courts to try terrorism matters.
Former military Head of State and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mr Muhammadu Buhari has given a tacit endorsement to the proposed amnesty for the members of fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram.
The retired General made his stance known during a chat with journalists in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, where he stated that Nigerians should embrace all efforts that could bring about peace, for socio economic development of the country.
The Federal Government recently set up a presidential committee to consider granting amnesty to members of the violent group that has been staging insurgent attacks against the government in the northern part of the country.
“What ever will bring peace to our country, we should do it” he stated.
General Buhari has now joined a number of northern leaders who have called on the President to extend amnesty to the fundamentalist sect members.
The Sultan of Sokoto; Alhaji Mohammad Saad Abubakar, recently led the call for amnesty for Boko Haram membersas part of the measures to halt the insurgency by the group.
About 3,000 lives are estimated to have been claimed in the insurgency which involves suicide bombings on churches, motor parks, markets, public gathering, police station and government’s installations.
The effort by the federal government to find a solution to the insecurity in the northern part of the country continued on Wednesday with the leadership of the Senate meeting with the service chiefs in the country over the deteriorating security situation.
It is rare to see the service chiefs at the Senate and it was rather obvious that what brought them to the National Assembly had to do with the country’s security.
The Senate President, Senator David Mark, who presided over the meeting, said the service chiefs were at the National Assembly to brief the Senate on the worrying situation.
The service chiefs at the meeting were the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Alex Barde, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ozoba as well as the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim and the Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Mr. Ita Ekepyong.
As soon as the security chiefs entered the chamber, the Senate went into a closed-door session.
Amnesty for Boko Haram
Briefing reporters after the closed-door meeting which lasted for six hours, the Senate spokesperson, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the security chiefs and heads of security agencies met the Senate with a view to finding a solution to the security challenge facing the country.
Mr. Abaribe, however, failed to disclose whether the meeting explored the issue of amnesty for the members of Boko Haram sect. But a source told Channels Television that the issue of amnesty for members of the fundamentalist sect was discussed during the meeting.
The source, however, said the lawmakers were divided over whether or not to support amnesty for the sect.
The Senate had last week asked the federal government to explore options other than military force in addressing the relentless bomb blasts and attacks in the country.
President Goodluck Jonathan has declared that there will be no amnesty for members of the fundamental sect, Boko Haram, as demanded by some northern leaders.
The President made the declaration while speaking in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital on Thursday during an interactive session with the people of the state as part of his one-day official visit to the North East State.
The President affirmed that the federal government “will not grant amnesty to the insurgents”, whom he described as “faceless.”
“You cannot grant amnesty to a ghost,” the President stated.
“Boko Haram is still operating as a ghost and federal government will not negotiate or grant amnesty to any faceless groups or individual,” he declared.
Dr. Jonathan in his speech, advised the members of the sect to come out with their demands and grievances that will pave way for negotiation and subsequent resolution for the overall development of the state.
The fundamentalist sect has been staging gun and bomb attacks against the Nigerian government since 2008 when its leader was killed by Nigeria’s security operatives. The group which seeks an imposition of Sharia law all over Nigeria recently splintered into diverse groups still staging attacks in various places in the region.
While sympathising with the people of Yobe State over the wave of attacks by the sect members, the President debunked insinuations that he had no love for the people of the state and the North East geopolitical zone of the country.
Yobe State has been a flashpoint with the Boko Haram insurgency and series of ethnic clashes and this is the first time the President is officially visiting the state.
Acknowledging the contributions of the people of the state to the socio-economic development of the state despite the security challenge, Dr. Jonathan gave the assurance that the federal government will continue to assist the state in the area of educational development.
He also said that the federal government will intensify its effort in providing power and water supply across the country.
Eminent sons and daughters of the state pleaded with the President at the session to assist the state get rid of the insurgency that has claimed hundreds of lives and property as they also sought the President’s assistance in the development of education, roads among other infrastructural needs in the state.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammad Saad Abubakar has urged President Goodluck Jonathan to declare amnesty for the members of the fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram, as part of the measures to halt the insurgency by the group.
The Sultan who is also the President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, gave the advice at the central council meeting of Jamatrul Nasril Islam (JNI) in Kaduna on Tuesday, where he expressed his deep concerns over the spate of bomb attacks and kidnappings by terrorists in parts of the country.
According to the Sultan, who chaired the meeting, extending amnesty to the sect members will pave way for dialogue between the sect and the federal government.
Making reference to a similar amnesty declared for militants in the Niger Delta, the Sultan stated that “the type of amnesty that ended militants’ unrest in the Niger Delta will be suitable for the North.”
He added: “Initiating a restoration and rehabilitation programme that would integrate the terrorists into the larger society will pave way for dialogue rather than engaging them in an endless war.”
Sultan Abubakar noted that the amnesty will enable the sect members lay down their arms rather than the on-going military tactic by the massive deployment of the Joint Task Force (JTF) to the northern part of the country.
The Federal Government had in 2008 declared amnesty for militants in the Niger-Delta following years of incessant bomb attacks on oil installations and kidnapping of oil workers. The amnesty which involved monthly payment and skill acquisition for the former militants abroad has since restored peace in the region and increased Nigeria’s crude oil production.
The Sultan’s demand is similar to the one made by the Northern Elders Forum during its meeting in Kano last year. At the meeting, the forum sought for amnesty for the Boko Haram members as it was done with the militants from the Niger Delta region during the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua administration.
Condemning the state of insecurity across the country, the Islamic leader attributed the security challenges to the injustice meted against the masses by political leaders which resulted in the taking up of arms by various groups.
Boko Haram has been staging insurgency attacks against the Nigerian government, demanding for an imposition of Sharia Law across the country. The insurgency attack is reported to have claimed over 3,000 civilian lives.
On polio outbreak and other epidemics in some states in the North, the Sultan said JNI will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies to ensure that children in the region are immunised against such deadly diseases.
Also speaking, the Minister of State for Health, Mr. Mohammed Pate, condemned the recent killing of nine health workers in Kano and lamented that most parents in the North are yet to accept immunisation for their children. This situation, he said, has hindered the eradication of polio in the country.
Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world where polio still exists.
The conference hall of the JNI headquarters in Kaduna was filled to capacity with prominent Islamic scholars and leaders from across the country, converging to discuss issues affecting Muslims and the country at large.