The call by the Sultan of Sokoto on Wednesday that members of the Boko Haram terror group be given amnesty has elicited a lot of negative reactions from major ethnic associations outside the North.
The pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere and the youth wing of Ndigbo have both spoken out against Sultan Muhammad Sa’adAbubakar’s call which they describe as unfortunate and outrageous.
A former President-General of the main Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife said it was premature at this stage to be talking of granting amnesty to Boko Haram members.
Ikedife told this correspondent in a telephone interview that despite the urgent need to put a stop to the senseless killings by the terror group, it was more important to first identify the leaders of the sect and their backers and dialogue with them to know their real desires.
“There is a need to stop the senseless killings, but what type of amnesty are you talking about? They have not been seen and there is need to understand what their grievances are, then they can say grant them amnesty or not,” he said.
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties took issues with the demand, saying there was need for the Boko Haram members to first show themselves and commit to a ceasefire before the issue of amnesty could be suggested.
A leader of the Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, on Wednesday also described the Sultan’s call for amnesty for Boko Haram as “outrageous and highly unfortunate”.
The octogenarian who said this in Akure, Ondo State said, “The Sultan’s call for amnesty for Boko Haram is outrageous and highly unfortunate. It is an express approval of the caliphate for the mass killings, devastation and destructive activities of the dreaded sect over the years.
“I cannot imagine why a highly placed person in the calibre of the Sultan will be seeking amnesty for a sect whose activities had rendered many homeless and left thousands of children as orphans.
“The Sultan’s call is obviously an indication that the caliphate is encouraging and cordoning bloody violence. It is unheard of that the Sultan, who should speak up and denounce the sect is asking that they be treated with kid gloves.
Our position in Afenifere is that the Boko Haram members are evil. They should be identified and severely dealt with according to the laws of the land.
The National Organizing Secretary of Ohaneze Ndigbo Youths, who spoke on behalf of Igbo youths, Mr Okechukwu Isiguzoro said that they were of the assurance that the Federal Government would not give attention to the sultan’s call.
In an interview in Enugu, Isiguzoro was quoted as saying, “Having held our meeting, our view is that the Federal Government should first of all conquer terrorism before anyone begins talk about amnesty.
“Well, we are very optimistic that the Federal Government would not give room to such talks. Moreover, granting them amnesty would expose President Jonathan as being soft on Nigeria’s security challenges.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had issued a statement on Wednesday night, where its General Secretary, Dr Musa Asake was quoted as saying they wondered what the Sultan meant by injustice in relation to the activities of the sect when the members of the group are ‘a bunch of fundamentalists who have killed, maimed, deformed Christians and have made widows and orphans out of otherwise peaceful and lovely families.’
He said, “We believe that for the talk of amnesty to hold water, the Islamist militant group must first of all renounce their extremist ideology and embrace the ceasefire plan. What President Goodluck Jonathan should do is to first of all give the sect members an ultimatum, failing which the sect members should be confronted vigorously, in line with what was done to the Niger Delta militants who refused the amnesty offered by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Otherwise, how can government grant amnesty to faceless people?
“We wonder what kind of amnesty is being contemplated by the Sultan. This is why we are puzzled. We therefore say categorically that we reject any offer of amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect. We ask government to do the same. One group of people cannot continue to pay the price of one Nigeria. We must sit together as brothers and discuss issues.”
The CNPP argued that it was necessary for members of Boko Haram to unmask themselves before they could earn amnesty.
The Rivers State Chairman of the CNPP, Dr Manaidi Dagogo-Jack said in a telephone interview that the call for amnesty by the Sultan of Sokoto was an error.
He went on to explain how difficult it would be for President Jonathan to grant amnesty to faceless people, as he insisted that the sect members be identified before they get any amnesty.
He also stated that it was wrong for anyone to draw comparisons between the Niger Delta agitation and the activities of the members of the Islamist sect whose abhorrence for Western education is the motivation for violence in the North.
However, the Sultan’s amnesty call received support from a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Abubakar Tsav.
Tsav said, “I am in support of the Sultan’s appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to grant general amnesty to members of the Boko Haram. I want to stress that the proposed visit of Mr President to Borno and Yobe States without the granting of general and unconditional amnesty will have no impact or significance whatsoever.
“Already, the 12 courageous and patriotic governors of the All Progressives Congress have stolen the show, by not only risking their personal safety, but by also donating N200m to the state government. I commend them for this. Jonathan can only beat this by granting general and unconditional amnesty to the sect members just as the late President Umaru Yar’adua did to the Niger Delta militants.
“Anything short of general amnesty will mean nothing but a visit to mock the traumatized governments and people of the two states. Those who are not in support of amnesty may be benefitting from the situation.”
The Sultan, who is also the spiritual head of Nigerian Muslims, had made the call for amnesty at a meeting of the Central Council of the Jama’atuNasril Islam in Kaduna.
He had argued that a presidential amnesty to even one of the members of the sect could make others lay down their arms for peace to reign in the nation and blamed the security challenges confronting the country on “injustice meted out to the people”.