This Day (Lagos)

31 January 2013

Nigeria: Sultan - FG Should Accept Boko Haram's Offer for Dialogue

Photo: Vanguard
boko haram

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, Wednesday day urged the Federal Government to expedite action in taking up the offer of dialogue from Boko Haram, following Monday's declaration of ceasefire by a faction of the terrorist group.

The monarch, while receiving the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, who paid him a courtesy call in his palace in Sokoto, also expressed his belief that Nigeria would not break up, adding those calling for its breakup are just seeking for relevance.

He maintained that it had become necessary for the Federal Government to engage in talks with the faction that declared ceasefire, as a means of getting across to the other splinter groups within the Boko Haram sect.

The sultan described the ceasefire offer from Boko Haram as a welcome development and urged the Federal Government not to throw away the opportunity of engaging the sect in negotiation, with a view to ensuring peace in the polity.

He said: "When few days ago we heard a purported ceasefire by a faction within the Boko Haram sect, we welcomed it and I believe it is an issue we have to open up to.

"So, it is for the government to now say even if it is a faction, let us talk to them because from the way you deal with one faction, you will get to the other faction.

"This is not an issue that should be thrown away by government because they don't know who they are. People know who they are and decided to come out to talk; so, government should accept them, hear from the sect and sit down for dialogue."

The sultan told the army chief that notwithstanding the security challenge that Nigeria has been facing, it would not break up but remain one entity.

According to him, it is better for Nigerians to sit down together and resolve those issues threatening national cohesion instead of seeking for the breakup of the country.

"God cannot be wrong by bringing us together. He has a reason why he brought us together as Muslims and Christians. There are many issues that bind us together, there are many reasons why we should remain together as brothers and sisters in this country.

"I don't see myself looking for a visa to visit Lagos, Enugu and Port Harcourt, when I have a lot of friends, brothers and colleagues in those areas," he added.

The sultan aslo called on political leaders to be transparent and ensure justice to the people, saying this will reduce friction and disaffection in the polity.

Sultan Abubakar who said no good Muslim or Christian would take up arms to kill another person of different religion, called Boko Haram terrorists and other allied groups to stop using the name of Islam to terrorise people.

He added that the. Nigerian Army is the last hope of the common man, saying the stability of the country depends on the unity and cohesion of the army.

The monarch therefore commended the army chief for renovating some buildings at the Brigade 1 Barracks, Sokoto.

Earlier, Ihejirika said the unity of Nigeria was non-negotiable, adding that it could not be subjected to a debate.

"The unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. This is what we are all trained to preserve. When some people talk about breaking up the country, I called a colleague of mine and told him that they would have to kill over 100,000 officers and soldiers to achieve that," he said.

He assured the sultan that he would continue to do his best to transform the Nigerian Army by ensuring that the resources made available by government are applied towards enhancing the welfare of troops.

He stated that this would translate to optimal performance of officers and men towards ensuring peace.

Meanwhile, northern muslims under the aegis of the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) yesterday said the cease-fire announced by a faction of Boko Haram islamic sect was a welcome development.

The religious body which is under the leadership of the Sultan noted that the cease-fire move by the sect should be seen by the government as an opportunity to be fully utilised.

The JNI in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu in Kaduna, called on the government to shun all negative and counter comments that it should not dialogue with the group.

The organisation said what matters was the declaration of the ceasefire, as there were many factions of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which the government dialogue with in the past.

"It is based on these facts that the JNI calls on the government to use this medium and dialogue with the group, so that peace and security will return to the north-east, north- west in particular and Nigeria in general.

"We pray Almighty Allah to give us peace in Nigeria," the JNI said.

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