9 April 2013

Nigeria: Northern Elders to Govs - Bring Boko Haram Members for Dialogue

Photo: Leadership
Suspected Boko Haram sect members.

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), which persuaded President Goodluck Jonathan to grant amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect, have appealed to governors in the geopolitical north to prepare the stage for the armed group and the federal government to begin meaningful discussion.

The elders specifically charged the state chief executives in the 19 northern states to "brace, identify the members of the group, discuss with them and resolve some of their grievances" so that the planned amnesty scheme would work.

In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, an elder statesman and spokesman of NEF,Prof. Ango Abdullahi, urged the governors to identify the sect members and bring them forward for dialogue with the federal government so that peace would return to the north.

"We support the northern governors to unmask the Boko Haram members. They must also deal with the issues of Boko Haram and their grievances, because this is the basis of dialogue," he said.

He added: "Yes, the northern governors have a greater role to play because they are the ones governing the states, and they are the ones managing the resources of the states.

If part of the problems is related to poverty, of course, they have a role to play in that regard.

"Apart from the federal government, there are two other tiers of government which have the responsibility of managing the affairs of the country, that is, the states and the local governments - they all have constitutional duties and roles to play in this matter.

"Part of the failure we have been experiencing is the failure of the state governments and local governments to play their role effectively.

It is not only the federal government that has failed, the states and local governments have also failed and we have to begin to address how they will come back to work proper."

On the growing rumours that NEF demanded N20 million and a house for any repentant Boko Haram member, Prof. Abdullahi said: "This is rubbish, it is not from us".

"We did not pre-empt any condition for Boko Haram ceasefire. These are speculations from whatever source we don't know.

All we have said is that they should be engaged in a dialogue and they should spell out their grievances and these grievances should be examined with a view to ratifying them," he stated.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Yobe State Traditional Council of Chiefs and emir of Fika, Alhaji Muhammadu Abali Ibn Muhammadu Idrissa, has said that granting amnesty to Boko Haram sect would resolve the lingering conflict and security challenges in the north.

He told journalists in Potiskum that the federal government and those behind the effort to engage the insurgents in dialogue meant well for the north.

He said: "We should live in peace without resorting to any form of violence, because without peace and harmony among the various ethnic and religious groups in this country, no meaningful development can take place."

Insurgency will soon end - US

The United States government is optimistic that Nigeria will soon overcome its current security challenges, adding that with the joint efforts of the administrations of President Jonathan and Barack Obama would lead to the defeat of the group soon.

In an interview with our correspondent, spokesperson of the US Bureau for African Affairs, Ms. Hilary Renner, said that the American government was still concerned about the ongoing attacks against Nigeria's citizens, civil institutions and infrastructure by Boko Haram members.

"The United States has already designated a number of Boko Haram's senior commanders as terrorists, shining a light on their horrific acts and cutting off their access to the US financial system.

Violent extremism requires more than just a security response. The group known as Boko Haram exploits legitimate northern grievances to attract recruits and public sympathy," he said.

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