1 June 2014

Nigeria: I Didn't Grant B'Haram Amnesty, Says Jonathan

Lagos — President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday refuted reports that he granted amnesty to members of the terrorist group, Boko Haram, which has been unleashing mayhem in northern parts of the country.

At the Democracy Day interaction with the youth in Abuja on Thursday, Minister of Youth Affairs, Boni Haruna, had announced the President's offer of amnesty to the group which comes with integration programmes for members who surrender their arms and embrace peace.

But presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, explained that no such amnesty was granted by Jonathan, and instead insisted on the Democracy Day address to the nation by the President in which he only offered opportunities for those willing to renounce terrorism.

"Let me refer you to the speech by the President. If you read the speech line by line, you will see that it contains the very message that the President wanted to put across and in that speech if you look at it I don't think the President used amnesty.

"Instead he spoke about those who are willing to renounce terrorism, those who are willing to embrace peace, opportunities have been created for them through the fact-finding committee, through the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolutions of Conflict in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.

"So, I will refer you basically to the speech by the President", said Abati.

On the assassination of the Emir of Gwoza by Boko Haram, Abati said "the President got the news and he was sad about it because what it means these terrorists who are threatening peace and stability in Nigeria, they are desperate and they continue to show that desperation".

He reiterated the President's assurance that the support, solidarity and cooperation Nigeria has received from neighbouring countries and the rest of the world shows that the battle against terror was on the whole world was prepared to fight.

"So, the days of peace as the President said in his speech are assured because this battle will not end until it is won and sustainable development is fully guaranteed", he said.

Besides, the President was in Ghana over the weekend for a regional meeting on security. By West African leaders and "they resolved that whatever happens in Nigeria, or Mali or Guinea Bissau or any other West African country is of concern to everybody in West Africa because we share the same ideal".

Meanwhile, facts emerged on Saturday on how the Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Shehu Timta Idris was killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents on Friday.

The late Emir before now was reported to have been on the target list of Boko Haram and reports went round last month that he had been assassinated by the same group.

The Emir, according to sources, became a prime target of Boko Haram because of his outspoken posture against activities of the terror group.

During his life time, the Monarch had made several passionate appeal to the government at all levels on the need to beef up security on Gwoza road, known to be terror-prone.

During the peak of Boko Haram's offensive attack in the area, which made residents contemplate relocating to neighbouring Cameroon, the late Emir was said to have pleaded with his people not to relocate, promising to always ensure their safety at all time.

Late Shehu Idris was known as an advocate of peace.

On his part, the Emir of Askira, one of the survivors of Friday's attack on traditional rulers in Borno State, His Royal Highness, Mai Abdullahi Ibn Muhammadu, the Askirama III, has described his escape from the attackers suspected to be men of the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram, as miraculous.

Mohammadu, a delegate at the ongoing National Conference, in company of the Emirs of Uba, Alhaji Ali Ibn Ismaila Mamza 11 and Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Timta, were on their way to attend the funeral ceremony of the late Emir of Gombe, Alhaji Shehu Abubakar who was reported to have died in a London Hospital when they were ambushed.

However, luck was not on the side of Alhaji Idrissa Timta who was killed by the insurgents alongside his driver and two police aides, while attempting to flee the scene of the attack.

The gunmen, who sources said were dressed in military camouflage uniforms, laid ambush along Gombi-Garkida Biu road in the Garkida and Hawul Local Government Area of Borno State.

The Emir, immediately after the lucky escape informed the Deputy Chairman of the National Conference, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi of the incident.

The Deputy Chairman, in response to the text message sent to him by the Emir said, "Your Royal Majesty, on behalf of the National Conference, please accept our heartfelt relief at the failure of the attack on your convoy. We thank Allah for your safety."

But the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) while condemning what it described as the callous and wicked manner in which the late Emir was killed, said the incident reinforces the question of the escalating insecurity situation in the North east zone despite the emergency rule imposed on the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

ACF in a condolence message to the government and people of Borno state signed by Muhammad Ibrahim, its National Publicity Secretary, appealed to Boko Haram members to accept and embrace the amnesty proposal of the Federal Government and stop the wanton destruction of lives and property of innocent people who do not even understand the grievances of the Sect.

"Governments all levels should also commit themselves and show transparency in the execution of the amnesty programme in interest of peace and reconciliation", the ACF said.

In another development, the African Union (AU) has announced plans to engage the Federal Government and other stakeholders in a meeting, in a fresh move to rescue the more than 200 girls abducted by insurgents in Chibok, Borno.

The AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, Mrs Benita Diop, made the disclosure at the close of the Conference of Ministers of Social Development in Addis Ababa on Saturday.

Diop, who is to lead a delegation to Abuja on Monday, June 2, is to intimate the Federal Government on the "new approach" to rescue the girls, abducted on April 14.

The envoy, who addressed the meeting on AU's effort to secure the girls, said the continental body would continue to evolve mechanisms to protect the girl-child through robust policies on education, among others.

The AU Ministers, under the auspices of the Fourth Conference on Social Development convened with stakeholders to review efforts toward ending child marriage in Africa.

The African Union Commission had announced that 39,000 underage girls were sent out for marriage daily in Africa and urged for more efforts to tackle the practice and allow such girls to face their future through adequate education.

Meanwhile Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), on Saturday said President Goodluck Jonathan's directive to the security forces to carry out a total war on Islamist fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram, should have happened a long time ago. He spoke in an exclusive interview with Sunday Independent.

The legal expert, who lauded the president's action, admitted that the insurgency would not have festered and degenerated to the present state if the president had declared war on the group's activities a very long time ago.

He also added that the war has become very difficult to win because Nigeria is fighting an unconventional war with a sect that has affiliation with international terrorist organisations like Al Qaeda and Alshabab.

"As far as I am concerned, the president's declaration of an all-out war is even late. It ought to have been done earlier, because it would have been very clear to the Boko Haram people that there is a very strong military action coming against them. Nevertheless, it is never too late.

"The president has made the right decision and let us hope for the best in the coming days both in the rescue of the abducted schoolgirls and a positive result in the fight against insurgency in the country".

He added that while alleged collaboration of the military with the insurgents has not been proven, the morale of the soldiers are low in prosecuting the warfare because on most occasion they are left in the lurch by the authorities when wounded while the families of some are abandoned in the eventuality of death.

While urging the government to take a cue from how developed countries prioritize the affairs of their military, he maintained that Nigerian soldiers lack the confidence to confront the terrorists because they are ill-equipped and not motivated to risk their lives for the nation.

"Military collaboration has not been proven but what I do know is that we need to make the soldiers feel that they are fighting a worthy cause. And that deals with military morale.

"An American soldier that goes missing, America will stop at nothing to rescue the person. Nigerian soldiers don't have that confidence.

"So, they easily drop their guns and they easily run away. So, it is very important that we work on the confidence of these soldiers".

"When a man puts his life on the line, he must be assured that anything that happens, his family will not suffer for it.

"So, that explains why the morality of the soldiers is so low that that the Al-Qaida forces are able to run them ragged.

"So, they must regroup to rethink their strategies, motivate the soldiers , encourage them, equip them with proper weapons, then these things we are talking about whether soldiers are collaborating with Boko Haram will diminish".

Also speaking on the offer of assistance by the Western world to assist Nigeria in the prosecution of the war, he said Nigerian soldiers should be allowed to fight the war while the foreign troops should assist with 'advanced intelligence footprints' .

"I support the introduction of international forces but to the extent that they won't bring them to fight on the ground".

While urging all Nigerians, including former Heads of State to come together and assist the government in fighting the war, he expressed disapproval on the blame game between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), saying such a sensitive serious issue should not be reduced to mere political matter aimed at scoring points.

"I just think both the PDP and APC should just shut up and face the issue on ground squarely. They should desist from making it a political issue.

"We are not interested in blame game or buck passing. It is a very disgraceful thing that a serious issue like this will be reduced to partisan political matters.

"What is important is if you are a father or grandfather as I am, you will be very sympathetic to these children.

"The last thing we want now as a nation is the distraction of political parties calling themselves names.

"That is not the way to look for our votes. They should desist from interfering in a way that suggests that they are passing the blame.

"APC states are affected, so the governor of Borno is not providing the necessary information. That is absolutely nonsense.

"What we know is that Al-Qaeda is here and we need to have all Nigerians at all levels come together to make sure that these insurgents are defeated, terrorism is wiped out from our land and the peace and tranquility we enjoy in Nigeria is restored", he said.

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