25 April 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan Inaugurates Panel On Boko Haram, Tasks it On Results

Photo: Daily Trust
Commitee for Boko Haram Dialogue

President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday vowed stiff sanctions against any soldier found to have breached the rules of engagement during last weekend's killings at Baga town in Borno State.

Also, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has tasked the federal government to do everything possible to track down those responsible for the killing of innocent non-combatants in Baga during the face-off between the military and the Boko Haram insurgents.

The president made the promise at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, while inaugurating the Committees on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North and another one on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

"The government will take steps to make sure that if errors were made, that such people must be sanctioned and treated in line with our own laws and regulations," he assured Nigerians.

He warned soldiers on duty in troubled areas of the north to be mindful of innocent citizens in the course of discharging their duties.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the weekend's killings, Jonathan disclosed that new reports, which claimed that Baga was still under siege and that the military has been blocking relief officials from accessing the town, were being investigated.

He also warned that as investigations into the situation continues, "any security operative found wanting will not be spared," stressing that "routine security work should not unleash untold hardship on the people at any time."

Continuing, the president said: "Let me use this opportunity to also charge the security agencies that while remaining at work, they must also be mindful of the citizens of this country.

"In attempting to bring peace to the country or any part of the country, they should do so in a manner that will not bring destruction to third parties.

"As a nation and as a government, we will work towards the security of this country. We will continue to do our best; we will continue to do things that will bring development to this nation. But we cannot succeed without the support of all our citizens.

"Therefore, we crave your indulgence to be patriotic to this country. All Nigerians should bring their patriotism to the nation, support the government, and support these two committees to succeed.

"That is the only way we can succeed, because we have to work with information that will be freely given by Nigerians."

He observed that the committee on dialogue and peaceful resolution was "quite critical" as Nigerians were expecting them to "perform magic and I pray that Allah gives you the wisdom to do so, because without peace we cannot develop, no matter how committed we are, without peace we cannot progress as a nation."

The terms of reference of the committee, which is expected to submit its report in three months are: to establish links and open up dialogue with the members of the Boko Haram; to develop a framework through which disarmament can take place; and work out sustainable options that would lead to granting amnesty to the group.

The committee is also expected to develop a comprehensive victims' support programme to provide succour to casualties of the protracted conflict, which has so far claimed more than 3,000 lives since 2009 when it erupted; in addition to suggesting measures on how to address the underlining causes of the crisis so as to forestall future occurrence.

Continuing, the president said: "As we are trying to address the issue of Boko Haram, we must also comprehensively address the issues directly affecting the people."

He added: "Inasmuch as we appreciate that in any human situation there must be disputes, disagreements and conflicts, but if we know about these and we have a good approach early enough, I believe that it will not degenerate to the situation we have today."

All the members of the committee earlier listed by the federal government were in attendance at the brief ceremony.

However, one of the members of the committee, Wakil, braved an unknown illness to attend the inauguration of the body into which she was drafted barely 24 hours before the event.

The Borno State activist, who was dressed in a black burka that concealed her entire body except her eyes, walked to the venue with the support of her daughter and a male aide.

On the other hand, Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, a veteran journalist, showed up at the inauguration, bringing the number of women on the committee to three. On Tuesday, the presidency had included Mrs. Aisha Wakil on the committee.

Initially when the committee was constituted, Dr. Ahmad Datti and Comrade Shehu Sani were named members of the panel, but they opted out, saying they were not consulted before their names were included.

Speaking on the exigencies that informed the composition of the committee, the president said that although some of the members were not consulted before the decision to include them was made, "all of you were aware of the challenges we have as a nation.

"So when their names were mentioned, you willingly agreed to play your own part to see how we can stabilise the country, to bring peace and development in our country."

In his remarks after the inauguration, chairman of the committee, who is also the Minister of Special Duties, Mr. Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, observed that the occasion was indicative that the current administration was committed to curbing insecurity not only in the north but everywhere in the country.

Noting that the task before them was not an easy one, Turaki said the inauguration "has provided a veritable platform for genuine and sincere resolution of the crisis situation in the north."

"I assure you sir that members of this committee are prepared to bring everything that we have, our diverse experience, our education, professionalism, tactics, skills and above all, our integrity to bear on the work of this committee," he added.

He said the first strategy was to open lines of communications, adding: "And I am sure there are a lot of links that we can work on."

Members of the committee are Sheik Ahmed Lemu, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Col. Musa Shehu (rtd.), Sheik Abubakar Tureta, Senator Sodangi Abubakar, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Hon. Mohammed B. Matawalle and Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim.

Others are Hajiya Naja'atu Mohammed, Malam Adamu S. Ladan, Dr. Joseph Golwa, AVM A. I. Shehu (rtd.), Mr. R. I. Nkemdirim, DIG P. I. Leha, Prof. Nur Alkali, Malam Salihu Abubakar and Alhaji Abubakar Sani Lugga.

Also on the committee are Ibrahim Tahir, Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo (rtd.), Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda, Group Capt. Bilal Bulama (rtd.), Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf and a representative of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

In a related development, Lugga, a member of the committee has expressed confidence that the recent killings in Baga would not obstruct dialogue with the Boko Haram sect.

Lugga spoke on the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) monitored in Sokoto yesterday, against the backdrop that the recent killings in Baga town might be a setback in federal government's efforts to end the insurgency in the north.

Lugga said Baga's attack occurred before the commencement of dialogue with the Boko Haram sect and as such, there was no cause for alarm.

"I strongly believe that people should not lose hope or be pessimistic about the situation, putting aside that God can save the situation and restore peace in the north.

"We should give the benefit of doubt to our brothers who are members of Boko Haram. I am confident that when the storm calms down, the sect will accept amnesty.

These people are not ghosts or faceless as is being projected because efforts to talk with them was carried out in the past but negotiations collapsed," Lugga said.

Also, ANPP said it viewed with deep shock and sadness, the incredibly jolting news of the Friday killing of about 185 civilians in Baga.

In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu, the party said dialogue and tact, not brute force could bring a lasting solution to the security crisis.

"The federal government has already given orders that the massacre should be investigated, but we hereby demand that this affair should not be handled like other probes of times past.

"Culprits, including officers who have despised their training and patriotic duties and killed innocent non-combatants as well as destroyed private property, must face the full wrath of the law via the appropriate military procedure and judicial processes," the party said.

Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has deployed a team of its officers and stakeholders to provide medical and relief assistance to the affected people in the troubled town of Baga.

NEMA's relief intervention in Baga came just as the agency on Tuesday took further steps to find ways of reducing risks suffered during disaster emergencies by bring stakeholders to brainstorm on the United Nations framework on disaster risk reduction in Abuja.

In a statement issued by a press officer with NEMA, Mr. Manzo Ezekiel, the agency said it responded to the attack in Baga by moving emergency officials as well as relief materials to assist the inhabitants.

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