President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday renewed his call on members of the Boko Haram sect to lay down their arms and embrace the federal government amnesty plans. The president challenged the sect members to engage the Federal Government in a constructive dialogue to end the security challenges in the North-eastern part of the country.
Jonathan made the call while declaring open a 2-day international seminar on the imperatives of the observance of human rights and
international humanitarian law norms in internal security operations, organized by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Jonathan urged the sect members to come forward with their grievances, stating that the government was willing to open negotiations for an amicable end to the violence the north by the group.
Jonathan said, "We are guided by our commitments to address human rights violation by the armed forces and I want the armed forces to maintain the highest level of professionalism at all times. I wish to use this platform to appeal to the leaders of the sect to lay down their arms and negotiate with the government, if they have any grievances."
Jonathan who noted that the seminar would ensure that security operations against insurgents conformed to the law and are guided by respect for human rights averred that though the Boko Haram sect was waging brutal attacks without respect for human rights, the military has been working assiduously to restore law and order.
The President challenged the security operatives to uphold the highest level of professionalism and respect for human rights at all times, stressing that the government is committed to observing the various international instruments on human rights to which it was a signatory.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke in his keynote address, pointed out that the seminar was meant to ensure that the efforts to address the nation's security challenges conform to law and are also in tandem with acceptable international standards.
He disclosed that the civil disturbances in Plateau and Kaduna States, as well as the militancy in Niger Delta and terrorists activities in the North-East geo-political zone, have been placed under preliminary analysis by the Office of the Trial Prosecutor, acting under the Article 5 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Adoke who disclosed that 40 Boko Haram members have so far been convicted in the country, explained that the government resorted to frequent deployment of the armed forces in aid of civil authorities to combat the multifarious security challenges facing the nation, as envisaged by section 217 (2) (c) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.
Adoke said, "The Prosecutor's report of August 5, 2013, established that the Boko Haram sect was carrying out crimes against humanity as prescribed under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, particularly murder and persecution. The Prosecutor has since proceeded to the admissibility stage of determining whether Nigeria is 'willing and able' to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes."
The minister stated that the attacks and exchanges between Boko Haram and the security forces had attained the threshold of a non-international armed conflict and those adjudged to be combatants could be held accountable for war crimes under Article 8 (2) (c) of the Rome Statute of the ICC.
The justice minister said that allegations of human rights abuses and non-adherence to applicable rules of engagement levelled against those involved in quelling crises coupled with adverse reports from human rights advocates, have tended to put the country on the spotlight before the international community.
He said that the government would hold the armed forces and other security agencies, accountable to the highest professional and ethical standards, tasking them to protect vulnerable members of the society such as women and children.
"While the military has been effective in maintaining law and order and restoring normalcy to many crises areas across the country, experience has shown that their intervention sometimes engender negative reactions from the affected communities on account of the loss of lives and property, associated with the alleged use of excessive force," he noted.
The National Security Adviser, NSA, Mr Dasuki Sambo in his remarks, disclosed that the military was currently in in 32 states of the country pointing out that the military was sometimes overwhelmed by the sophistication of the sect.