The Federal Government has insisted that amnesty shall not be the first option to be used in curtailing the Boko Haram Islamist sect, and shall come only after members of the sect identify themselves to engage in government talks.
This position was made known by the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku in a reaction to calls from the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and other prominent Nigerians that the sect be granted full and unconditional amnesty, in the belief it will douse tension in the North and end the sect’s insurgency.
Maku said that no responsible government would grant amnesty to a vague group, saying such will come up only in the process of discussion.
He noted that the ceasefire agreement entered with the group by the Borno State government has collapsed as the group struck a few hours after the truce was brokered.
The minister added that there has been no credible discussion with the sect in one year, although government had not foreclosed negotiation with the sect.
“We have not seen anybody come up to say that he can negotiate for the group. Right now, the condition for amnesty is not there. Government is dealing with a group that is secretive. There is no clear one person who can speak on behalf of the group,” he said.
He also did not rule out the possibilities of some individuals talking to the sect, although he insisted that it would be too early to say the government and the sect were having credible conversations.
“Government is looking forward to the day when formal discussions with the sect begins. But the condition for amnesty is not there,” he said.
He also claimed that the security situation in the North is not overwhelming, adding that the security agencies have succeeded in their strategy to contain the group, even as he urged Nigerians to offer useful information to aid the efforts of security operatives to end the insurgency.
Justifying the amnesty granted to militants to end the unrest in the Niger Delta, Maku recalled how Southsouth leaders, including governors, came out to the negotiating table with the militants, a development he attributed to the sustenance of peace in the oil-rich region.
He insisted that without the support and cooperation of the people, the unrest situation in the North will fester.
Maku said that although the government had failed to end the activities of Boko Haram by middle of last year as promised by President Goodluck
Jonathan, a lot of successes have been recorded against them.
The minister who disagreed that corruption was fueling the insurgency, however, admitted that governance in some of the affected states may not be ruled out.
He said blaming Boko Haram entirely on corruption was wrong since terrorism is a global phenomenon.
The minister lashed out at some politicians, who he accused of speaking on issues of national security without any sense of responsibility and patriotism.