Jos — A ray of hope flickered yesterday for a possible re-start of talks between the government and Boko Haram as National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki announced that he is planning to meet with the sect's leaders.
Dasuki, who spoke in Jos during a meeting with stakeholders in Plateau State, said he will meet with the group to push for a ceasefire and dialogue, but he did not give a date of when this will happen.
"I was in Yobe and Borno states last week and I have got the telephone numbers and contacts of key Boko Haram members and I will meet with them," the NSA said at the meeting, which was attended by Governor Jonah Jang as well as top traditional and religious leaders.
"I saw the dangerous effect of Boko Haram in these states and what I saw was pathetic. But I have the mandate to put heads together with religious and traditional leaders as well as the state governments to ensure an immediate ceasefire."
Dasuki said that the declaration of a state of emergency was having negative effects on the affected areas. "So far, I have seen the negative effects of the state of emergency in Yobe and Borno states especially; personally, I do not support the issue of state of emergency," he said.
Mediated talks between the Federal Government and Boko Haram broke off at an incipient stage in March after the go-between pulled out citing insincerity on the part of the government.
Officials had said since then that government was not averse to dialogue but could not proceed so long as the sect remained "faceless." The sect itself said it has foreclosed dialogue because of what it called betrayal by the government in previous peace efforts.
Dasuki's announcement yesterday came just weeks after his appointment and removal of erstwhile NSA, General Andrew Azazi.
He said he was in Plateau for on-the-spot assessment of the security challenge and in furtherance of the Federal Government's peace efforts, particularly in the North.
"I have a stake in Plateau because I have lived in Pankshin and Jos when my father resided here. So if we lived peacefully way back then, it is possible to go back to those good old days," he said.
"Before now, it is difficult for me to believe that you can see a Fulani and Berom man together on the street of Plateau fighting. But the presence of various ethnic and religious groups at this parley is a pointer to the fact that we want to forge ahead."
In his remarks, Governor Jonah Jang said emergency rule in parts of the state had not achieved the intended effect as the attacks on the affected local government areas had continued unabated.
On dialogue with Boko Haram, Jang said that it was difficult to dialogue with the group since its leaders and members were not known.
He said, "We only hear that Boko Haram claims responsibility for this and that attack but we never heard anybody coming out to say he is Boko Haram. We know the Niger Delta militants had leaders and a cause they were fighting for which made late President Yar'Adua to succeed with the amnesty programme but, who is Boko Haram?"
Jang alleged that some influential people were behind the sect in view of the sophistication of its operations and insisted that the sponsors must be dealt with by the appropriate authority.
He also accused authorities in Abuja of freeing people suspected of participating in the 2008 Jos crisis.
"When we had our crisis in 2008, we arrested some Chadians, over 50, and some Nigeriens, again the number was over 50. We documented them and even took their pictures," he said.
"But Abuja was accusing us of telling lies; that the people were not Chadians and Nigeriens. They took those people to Abuja and freed them. Today security forces in Abuja are talking about Chadians and Nigeriens being arrested. We don't know if it is the same people we arrested that are now going round in circles. If our position had been given due regard and the matter dealt with appropriately, the evil would not have been repeating itself today."
Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, also spoke on what he called security management being centralised in Abuja. "The governor being the chief security officer of his state is a constitutional statement with no practical expression. This should change to give the governor real powers to administer security in his domain," he said.
Chairman, Council of Ulama of Jama'atu Izalatul Bid'a wa Ikamatus Sunnah (JIBWIS), Sheikh Sani Yahaya Jingir, urged the NSA to invite all the parties involved in the conflicts in the state to a different and smaller forum so that detailed information can be obtained. Jingir was represented at the meeting by Sheikh Nassir Abdul Muhiyi who took exception to Gbong Gwom Jos's remark that certain people should not lay claim to leadership in Jos.
Buba had in his speech said only people who are indigenous to Jos should expect to hold certain positions in the city.
After his main speech, Dasuki responded to issues raised by other speakers, emphasising the need for collaboration between the Federal Government and the authorities in Plateau.
"My intention is to work with the governor because the governor who is in the state and is the chief executive here should know the situation better. Ours is to complement his efforts and make his job easier by the same token make our own job easier because if there is peace in Plateau, it will mean less problem in the nation," he said.
"We will be meeting with even the local people in smaller groups so that everyone can have a chance to speak their minds," he added. "Someone said decisions over Plateau are made and implemented in Abuja, no, that will not happen; not with me, it won't happen."
The meeting was attended by traditional, religious and community leaders, heads of security services, women, youth groups, and government functionaries.