Damaturu — President Goodluck Jonathan declared, yesterday, that his government will not grant amnesty to members of the Islamic militant sect, Boko Haram, as demanded by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III and some Northern groups.
The president, who made the declaration while speaking in Damaturu at a town hall meeting during his one-day visit to Yobe State, said he could not grant amnesty to ghosts but that he was open to negotiation if members of the sect would show themselves physically with their demands.
A picture taken from a video distributed to journalists in recent days through intermediaries and obtained by AFP on March 5, 2013 reportedly shows Abubakar Shekau (C), the suspected leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, flanked by six armed and hooded fighters in an undisclosed place.
However, Governor Ibrahim Geidam of YobeState, said his government had spent about N4.8 billion to contain the insurgency and that the state spends about N200 million monthly to maintain the operations of security personnel fighting the insurgents.
Responding to calls by some professionals and stakeholders in YobeState, led by former Minister of Finance, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, for amnesty for the Boko Haram group, President Jonathan said such a gesture would not be possible for now because members of the group have remained "ghosts" with no one coming forward to admit membership of the sect.
I can't declare amnesty for ghosts
He said: "You cannot declare amnesty for ghosts. Boko Haram still operates like ghosts. So, you can't talk about amnesty for Boko Haram now until you see the people you are discussing with."
Comparing the amnesty granted to militants in the Niger Delta, Jonathan said this was possible for late President Umaru Yar'Adua to do because the militants came out of the creeks and met late President Yar'Adua in Aso Rock, Abuja when he invited them, but that in the case of Boko Haram, no leader of the group had surfaced for talks.
The President said: "When you call the Niger Delta militants, they will come; but nobody has agreed that he is a Boko Haram member, no one has come forward. If amnesty can solve the situation, then no problem. But nobody has come forward to make himself visible."
Jonathan, in his speech, advised members of the sect to come out with their demands and grievances that would pave the way for negotiation and subsequent resolution for the overall development of the state.
While sympathising with the people of YobeState 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 North-East geopolitical zone of the country.
YobeState 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.
Jonathan promises to assist in educational devt
Acknowledging contributions of the people to the socio-economic development of the state despite the security challenge, Jonathan assured that the Federal Government would continue to assist the state in the area of educational development.
He also said the Federal Government would 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 help 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.
...assures Yobe citizens
President Jonathan, who later visited BornoState, yesterday, assured the people of the state that his inability to visit and share in their grief was not because he did not care for them, but because he had been travelling. He said the Yobe trip had been slightly delayed by the change of National Security Adviser, NSA, stating that the trip had been planned even before the appointment of Sambo Dasuki as NSA..
Governor Geidam, speaking earlier during the President's meeting with emirs and traditional rulers from the state, lamented that the Boko Haram insurgency had retarded development in the state.
He said before the security challenges, the state was adjudged as one of the most peaceful in the country while the people were known for their hospitality and affection towards strangers and co-existed peacefully irrespective of ethnic, religious or political differences.
209 schools destroyed by insurgents -- Geidam
Governor Gaidam said 209 public schools, vehicles and property worth N2.5 billion, and private buildings estimated at N629 million have been destroyed by the insurgents.
He added that his government had spent about N4.8 billion to contain the terrorist insurgency, adding that the state government spends an average of N200 million monthly to maintain the operations of security personnel fighting the insurgents.
Lamenting that the costs are impacting heavily on the lean resources of the state, Geidam said over 150 patrol vehicles had also been donated to the security personnel.
He said: "It is in this regard that I make a special appeal to the President to come to our rescue by allocating intervention funds to the state government to enable it cope with the current security challenges."
The governor also said though there was a need to upscale the modernity of the equipment and methods of the nation's security agencies to tackle the prevailing challenge, "the ultimate strategy of addressing its remote causes through poverty alleviation, eradication of ignorance, entrenchment of social inclusion and good governance, however, appear to be the only panacea."