Abuja/Kaduna/Maiduguri — A cross-section of Nigerians and political stakeholders Thursday welcomed with mixed reactions, last Wednesday's composition by the federal government of a presidential committee to dialogue with members of Boko Haram.
The committee, whose terms of reference included developing a framework for the granting of amnesty; setting up of a framework through which disarmament could take place within a 60-day time frame; the development of a comprehensive victims' support programme, is headed by the Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki.
While mixed reactions trailed the composition of the committee, the President of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN), Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmed, who was named as a member of the committee, has rejected the offer.
Ahmed's rejection of the membership of the committee came on the heels of the indefinite postponement of council elections in Yobe State by the state Independent Electoral Commission (YOSIEC) due to security challenges.
But reacting to the composition of the Amnesty committee, the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, hailed the federal government for setting up a dialogue committee to engage members of the sect.
Abatemi-Usman in a statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Michael Jegede, expressed confidence that the move, aimed at checking the activities of the group, would yield fruitful outcome.
The senator noted that his confidence was anchored on the composition of the 26-member presidential amnesty panel, which included the likes of Sheik Lemu, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, among others.
But the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) toed a different line of argument, expressing doubt over the seriousness of the federal government to resolve the security crisis through dialogue.
Speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, the CPC stated that it was yet to be convinced by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led federal government that it was not benefiting from the security crisis.
"We do not trust this federal government to sincerely bring about an end to the Boko Haram insurgency. We have said this before that the PDP-led government is in cahoots with the political Boko Haram and that they have been benefiting from the huge budgetary expenditure for security.
When contacted on the amnesty committee, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said it was studying the development.
The party's National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, who spoke with THISDAY on telephone yesterday evening from the party's national convention venue in Lagos, said the party would study the composition of the committee as well as its terms of reference before making its stand known.
Speaking also, the former Governor of Borno State and Chairman of Board of Trustees (BoT) of the All Nigeria Peoples Parry (ANPP), Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, has described as despicable, the position of the National Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Youth Wing, Ahmed Sule, regarding the amnesty programme.
Sheriff in a statement by his Special Assistant, Mr. Umar Duhu, said the attempt to oppose the amnesty programme which has received the endorsement of the revered Muslim devout leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, is condemnable.
"As a prospective leader in the northern part of Nigeria, I feel greatly pained and saddened by the impudent statement credited to one Ahmed Sule, on Sunrise Daily programme on Channels Television on April 16, 2013. Where an untaught Ahmed Sule will arrogate to himself the nomenclature of National Secretary General, Arewa Consultative Youth Wing, (leader of the Northern Youth), it is not only despicable to Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) but a great fundamental decay in the forum itself.
"For the records, when late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua took charge of the security situation in Maiduguri over the insurgency in 2009, the then Chief of Defence Staff was saddled with the responsibility of curbing the insurgency and automatically became the chief security officer in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
"Why are you not mentioning the then CDS's name, or is it because he was a loyalist of your party? As it stands today, the security situation of some designated local government areas in Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Kano States is not in the hands of the state governors, but the JTF.
In another development, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has appealed to members of Boko Haram and Nigerians to cooperate with the federal government so as to end the orgy of violence in the north.
Reacting to the composition of the Amnesty committee, the National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, said the federal government should be commended for taking such a bold step.
According to him, the setting up of the amnesty committee was an indication that the federal government was determined to pursue the amnesty option to a logical conclusion and called for the cooperation of members of the sect and Nigerians towards the resolution of the security challenges in the North.
"The setting up of the Committee on Amnesty by the federal government is a welcome development because it demonstrates the commitment of the government to pursue the amnesty option to its logical conclusion.
"We commend the federal government for such consciously directed efforts. We appeal to the insurgents and all Nigerians to cooperate with the government so that Nigeria can make violence history," Sani said in a telephone interview with THISDAY.
However, Ahmed, while justifying his rejection of the membership of the committee, said it was based on his bitter experience in the past when he voluntarily tried to mediate between the authorities and members of the sect.
Speaking in an interview with the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), monitored yesterday in Kaduna, Ahmed maintained that the insincerity on the part of the government was responsible for the of peace talks with the government over a year ago when there was moves to broker peace.
He also faulted the composition of the members of the committee, saying both the chairman and the secretary of the committee were government officials, who he believes, would not present the correct information of the findings of the committee as they would prefer to tell government what it wants to hear.
Ahmed said: "I made such moves previously on two occasions and it wasn't the government that asked me to do that. We had reached a stage where, if the government had agreed with what we got, what we resolved with the sect's members called Boko Haram, by now we would have forgotten everything. Nigeria would have witnessed peace by now.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the YOSIEC, Alhaji Jauro Abdu, while announcing the postponement of the local government elections in Yobe State, which was earlier scheduled for June, this year, said: "The postponement of the election is because of the degenerating security situation in the state and I want to state clearly that the elections will be rescheduled at a later date when the security situation improves."
He stated that the decision was based on the outcome of the meeting with members of political parties and security agencies in the state, said the elections cannot be held under the present situation.
Abdu further lamented that the curfew imposed recently as a result of the deteriorating security situation did not provide the enabling environment for the conduct of the election across the state.
The announcement of the postponement of the elections also came as the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in the state disclosed that it had arrested four members of the Islamic sect during a raid on one of their camps in Majari village of Gujba local government area.
It was also learnt that during the raid, weapons and ammunition were recovered from the hideout of the sect by the JTF.