The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has said that the rejection of the amnesty offer by the Boko Haram Islamist sect is an indication of their intent to Islamize Nigeria. It therefore challenged Northern leaders who are pushing for amnesty for the sect to bring the leaders of the sect to dialogue with the government.
The Islamist sect had, in an audio recording by its leader, Sheikh Abubaka r hekau, turned down the offer of amnesty by the Federal Government, describing it as an irony since its members had not done anything wrong by waging war on the nation.
“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,” he was quoted as having said in the audio message.
The CAN President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, in his reaction said he was not surprised by the development and reiterated his opposition to an amnesty offer for the Islamist sect, noting that they were based on an ideology.
He said, “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.
“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?”
He advised the government to concentrate more on the victims of the violence rather than pursuing amnesty for the group. He also advised people to stop making comparisons between Boko Haram and the Niger Delta militants.
“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.”
“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. Yar’adua also gave them months to drop their weapons and embrace peace.”
Meanwhile, prominent Northern groups are still at loggerheads on whether the amnesty offer should still be made to the Boko Haram sect members or not.
While the Pan-Northern socio-political organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and the Northern Elders Forum are of the Federal Government to formally make an offer to the sect members, the Coalition of Concerned Northern Politicians and Academics and Businessmen and the Civil Rights Congress are against it.
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.”
The NEF, in its opinion, said that 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,” said its spokesman, Prof AbdullahiAngo.
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, adding 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 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.”