by Rachel Ogbu
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN has criticised Boko Haram’s refusal on an amnesty deal with the Federal Government.
CAN believes the Islamic group was trying to make sure its plan to Islamise the country was not interrupted in any way.
On Thursday, CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, confronted northern leaders seeking amnesty for Boko Haram members to produce Sheik Ibrahim Shekau to a dialogue table with the government.
“The menace of Boko Haram is primarily a religious issue. They believe they have a mandate from Allah to Islamise Nigeria. When I talk like this, it’s not because I hate Muslims,” he said.
“In fact, those who say they are good Muslim leaders should be worried because Boko Haram members are the people who give Islam a bad name.”
“They (Boko Haram members) do not see anything good in what government is saying. I am therefore not surprised at what Shekau just said.”
“In my opinion, he is even a more principled man than most of these Boko Haram members because most of them are just jumping on the bandwagon and thinking that by saying this, Nigerians will see them as people who love Nigeria, but it’s not true.
“We have said it before, to whom do government want to give amnesty? Where is the prison and where are the people? I understand Shekau said it’s Boko Haram that should give the Federal Government amnesty. So, where do we go from here?”
“The government should find ways to stop people from being killed and they should find ways to compensate the people and do something to help the widows and orphans. As we speak, the killing is still going on every day in Borno, Yobe and some other states in the North.”
Advising that “people should stop comparing Boko Haram with Niger Delta militants,” the cleric noted that the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua did not go to the Niger Delta to look for the “boys.”
“He (Yar’Adua) gave President Goodluck Jonathan who was then his deputy an order to go to the creeks. He (Jonathan) was able to identify the boys and they were taken to Yar’ Adua. So these Northern elders should look for Shekau and his people and negotiate with them,” Oritsejafor said.
The Punch reports:
Shekau, who is the sect’s leader, had in a recorded audio message in Hausa, said it was ironical that the Federal Government was contemplating amnesty for Boko Haram members, who according to him, had not done anything wrong by waging a war against the nation.
He was quoted by the Agence France Presse as saying, “Surprisingly, the Nigerian government is talking about granting amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that should grant you (Federal Government) (a) pardon.”
But Oritsejafor, who in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, reiterated his opposition to amnesty for the sect members, said he was not surprised by the development.
In separate interviews also on Thursday, the Pan-Northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and the Northern Elders Forum advised the Federal Government to formally make an offer to the sect members.
The advice by the two groups was however opposed by the Coalition of Concerned Northern Politicians and Academics and Businessmen as well as the Civil Rights Congress which said the rejection of amnesty did not surprise them.
The ACF, through its National Publicity Secretary , Mr. Anthony Sani, said, “Let the amnesty be offered first and those agreeable to it accept before we know how to handle those that refuse it.
“This is because amnesty is a mechanism put in place to assure the safety of members of the sect should they agree to dialogue.”
To the NEF, the rejection of the plan was a sign that dialogue had started between the Federal Government and Boko Haram.
“We are very glad. If there is a reaction from the group in terms of what government has pronounced, even though it has not given details of its pronouncement to us that is the beginning of dialogue; at least dialogue through the medium that you are providing,” spokesperson for the NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said in an interview with one of our correspondents.
He added, “People can exchange views through newspapers at the beginning that could eventually lead them to face each other person to person. Really we will look at it positively and if nothing, our efforts have so far led to this exchange between the group and the government. I think we should look at it on the positive side.
“If we look at it on the negative side, we will not be promoting the eventual dialogue and understanding that we are looking for.”
The group recalled that when Yar’Adua granted amnesty for Niger Delta militants, he gave them a six- month period to accept the offer.
It therefore advised the Federal Government to give the sect a time frame within which to accept the offer.
The elders forum added that it was wrong for the government to have said that the sect was faceless since about 5, 000 of its members were currently in detention.
“We can’t say these people are faceless. Many of them are present because there are about 5, 000 of them in detention and you are the ones reporting that commander so and so have been arrested,” he said.
But the Executive Secretary of CRC, Mallam Shehu Sani, insisted that the amnesty plan was a charade.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, Sani said, “In the first place, the whole idea of the amnesty is centered on the disbursement of money and the group has never made any financial request or demand and has never given any financial condition for anything.
“So by rejecting the amnesty, they are simply rejecting what they perceive as a charade and an attempt to use them to defraud the state.
“It is very clear that the northern elite are in fact in support of the amnesty and the proposal which they have shown the President contains nothing but ideas on how money could be spent on the issue of amnesty but the insurgent group now came out to reject the whole idea simply because it is dubious.”
Also, the Convener of CCNPAB, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said, “What they (Boko Haram) said was actually the truth. Firstly, they had not negotiated with the Federal Government and so the question of who is giving who amnesty becomes confused. You have at least some measure of guilt before you accept to benefit from and subsequently accept being forgiven. That is what amnesty is all about.
An Ibadan- based cleric and founder of the C&S Success Gate Inc, Akure, Primate Ademisokun Turton, said the rejection of the proposed amnesty was a confirmation that a powerful political class in Northern Nigeria was sponsoring the group.
“I am not surprised that the Boko Haram has rejected the amnesty plan . It is now clear that their agitation is political. What they want is either Nigeria breaks up or they rule it,” Turton said.
Also on Thursday, the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar El-kanemi, said that amnesty for Boko Haram members would restore peace and the economic fortunes of the North.
El-kanemi stated this while briefing journalists at the opening of the 2nd Borgu International Gani-Durbar Festival in New Bussa, Niger State.
According to him, the people of the North are optimistic that the amnesty will bring an end to the violence in the North.
He said, “We are happy that the President has deemed it appropriate to set up a committee to work out the modalities for the process.You know we have been talking about the amnesty for long. We came out with the suggestion before. But we are happy that the Federal Government has agreed with our proposal.
“We are happy that a committee had been set up and we are waiting for the Federal Government. We understand that in a few weeks, the report will be submitted.’’
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said it is not favourably disposed to joining issues with Boko Haram over its rejection of amnesty.
A competent top government official, who disclosed this said the thinking in government circle was that it was not right to engage the sect in a media war.
“We have seen the report. We are not going to engage the sect in the media. We will just wait patiently and see how it plays out,” he said.