Maiduguri — The Borno Elders Forum (BEF) yesterday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to direct top military authorities in the country to drastically reduce the number of soldiers patrolling the streets of Maiduguri, stressing that the military occupation has made the town "desolate and the people refugees in their own town."
The forum equally called on members of the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram, to consider the sufferings of the poor people and stop fighting.
In a speech by chairman of the forum, elder statesman and first minister of petroleum, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, read by former head of the Borno State Civil Service, Dr. Bulama Mali Gubio, the elders decried the protracted security challenges in the state which had crippled all social and economic activities to the extent that people found it difficult to perform their five obligatory prayers in congregation.
Monguno said dialogue with aggrieved members of the society must be pursued vigorously in order to end the ongoing imbroglio and called on the federal government to set the pace by releasing all members found innocent among the many members of the Boko Haram that have been incarcerated.
"We don't want a Guantanamo Bay here", Monguno said, apparently referring to the manner in which many Boko Haram suspects have been locked up, akin to the United State's prison in Cuba where top suspected Al-Qaeda suspects are locked up.
"The Borno Elders met severally and appraised the ongoing crisis in the land. Since 2009 to date, the Borno elders have frantically tried to end the crisis which has almost brought our society to its knees.
"Our people can no longer engage in any meaningful activity to sustain their lives. Nowadays, the people cannot perform the five obligatory prayers in congregation in mosques near their houses or perform the Friday prayers in several mosques in the town. We are no longer practicing our religion as desired.
"Our markets and other places of business are no more; many people can no longer access schools for their children. Many of our Islamiyya schools have collapsed.
"All the things we hold dear to our culture, tradition and pride are gone. Even going through the current farming season has become increasingly difficult. People can no longer move from one point to another without being subjected to harrowing experience," Shettima said.
He said the forum therefore recommends that: "The members of the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda'awati Wal Jihad are our children, sons and brothers. We are aware of your grievances; we are however appealing to you to ponder on the recent happenings and how our people are subjected to those harrowing conditions enumerated above.
"We appeal to you to lay down your arms, come back home, re-integrate yourselves and help salvage our destroyed society and economy. Nobody else will do this for us except ourselves. You have the right to live your normal lives like other citizens and go about with your lawful activities as members of our community.
"All of you should as a matter of urgency come back, confide in us and seek the path of dialogue to resolve all issues you may wish to raise. You need to do that for Islam, for our people and for yourselves. This is your own land and you have no other land."