President Goodluck Jonathan and the military service chiefs yesterday held a closed-door meeting to discuss how the Federal Government would respond to the purported rejection of the amnesty offer extended to the Boko Haram Islamist sect by the leadership of the sect.
The leader of the sect, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, had on Thursday, rejected the amnesty offer in an audio recording, declaring instead that it was the Federal Government that needed amnesty, a position which is said to be causing concern for the Presidency.
Shekau had said in the 30-minute message which was recorded in Hausa, English and Arabic that his group had not committed any wrong to deserve, but rather it was the government that should be seeking amnesty from the sect. He further said that even though the sect was the one wronged and the one that should be asked for amnesty, it was not ready to grant any pardon to the government.
He said: “We are the one to grant them pardon. Have you forgotten their atrocities against us? We are surprised that today it is the federal government saying it will grant us amnesty. Oh God, is it we who will grant you amnesty or you are the one to grant us amnesty?
“What have we done? If there is room for forgiveness, we are not going to do it until God gives us permission to do it. Have you forgotten your sin, have you forgotten what you have done to us in Plateau, the state you called Jos? We emerged to avenge killings of our Muslim brothers and the destruction of our religion. Was it not in Plateau that we saw people cannibalizing our brothers?”
It was learnt that the President had requested for an immediate meeting with the service chiefs through the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim immediately he had resumed office.
According to a source, the service chiefs had reported for work without any idea that they were going to meet with the president, but at 10am, they received orders from Admiral Ibrahim for a meeting. Suddenly, the chief of army staff, Lt-Gen. Azubike Ihejirika; the chief of air force, Air Marshal Alex Badeh and the chief of navy, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba had lined up their cars waiting for the CDS to lead them to the Aso Rock Villa.
Although the details of the meeting were sketchy at press time, a military source disclosed that the meeting discussed the rejection of the proposed amnesty by Shekau and his faction of the sect and the next line of action to take.
‘‘What I can tell you now is that President Jonathan and the service chiefs met to discuss the next line of action with the rejection of the amnesty by the Shekau group. They deliberated whether they should still go ahead with the programme or not with the new development and after the usual frank talk among themselves, they resolved to go ahead with the programme for political and strategic reasons, ‘’ the source disclosed.
Speaking further, he explained that the meeting wanted to prove the critics of Jonathan wrong — those who thought he was not ready to grant amnesty like he amnesty by his late predecessor, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua that restored peace to the Niger Delta. He said the meeting agreed that the gesture would allow those that are being forced to remain in the sect to have a rare opportunity to surrender to the state while those who dare the federal government would be dealt with.
It was learnt that the presidency is going ahead with the inauguration of the amnesty committee, which would spell out conditions to be met in order to prevent the project from being hijacked by unwilling insurgents.