Despite the fact that the Boko Haram Islamist sect has rejected the offer of amnesty by the Federal Government, the government is still said to be keeping that option open as its amnesty committee has made plans to reach out to the leader of the sect, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau.
It was gathered that a committee to be made up of respected Islamic scholars, especially from Borno and Yobe States which are the strongholds of the sect, would soon be constituted to pursue the dialogue option.
Together with other prominent indigenes of the two states, the scholars would assist in reaching out to Shekau.
A top government source, who refused being mentioned, said, “The Federal Government is not discouraged by the sect’s rejection of amnesty. We are going to use the stick and carrot approach. While the Joint Task Force will continue its operations, the committee will reach out to the sect for dialogue. We have started a process and we will not abandon it. We will, however, need the cooperation of northern leaders to appeal to those people.”
At a meeting last week, the Northern Elders’ Forum was able to convince President Goodluck Jonathan to consider amnesty for the sect members as a way out of dealing with the insurgency.
The President, in turn, was reported to have agreed to set up a committee that would work out the amnesty terms for the sect after a meeting with security chiefs.
However, the leader of the sect rejected the offer on behalf of the group, saying in an audio message in Hausa obtained by the Agence France Pressenews agency, “Surprisingly, the Nigerian government is talking about granting amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that should grant you (a) pardon.”
It was also gathered that in addition to the Northern Elders’ Forum, other groups such as the Arewa Consultative Forum and the Northern Governors’ Forum are expected to join in the peace moves.
This was confirmed by the secretary of the NEF, Prof Abdullahi Angowho told this correspondent that the forum was prepared to play any role given to it as long it will bring peace.
On the challenge of the NEF reaching out to Shekau, he said, “It depends on how the committee is formulated. I think the government is working very hard to set up this committee, they have not finished.
“I know members of the committee will do this. The northern elders and other groups will join the main committee; there may be sub-committees which will be given various roles with the sole objective of ending the crisis.
“I don’t see our group being singled out; we will be called to make our contributions like every other group.”
Meanwhile, the JamaatuNasril Islam on Friday appealed to the Federal Government not to be distracted from its amnesty plan for the insurgent group, Boko Haram.
This statement was made by its Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, said in Kaduna at a news briefing who also advised the government tonot pay attention to those bent on distracting it from pursuing the path of peace and reconciliation.
He condemned the negative campaign launched by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, against the amnesty plan, saying it was divisive and selfish.
“We appeal to the Federal Government to proceed with its plans for amnesty as a potent way of restoring peace to Nigeria without minding any distractive tendencies,” he said.
The JNI secretary general described the Boko Haram insurgency as “an accident beyond religion, which affects every Nigerian directly or indirectly and upon which no passing of buck can be logical.”
He said the attack by the insurgents had killed more Muslims than Christians and had disrupted the livelihood of millions of others.
Aliyu listed some high profile casualties of the insurgents as the Shehu of Borno, the Emir of Fika, the Emir of Kano and hundreds of Muslim clerics, adding that the CAN president’s comments were misplaced.
He appealed to well-meaning Nigerians to support the government to restore peace and normalcy to areas affected by the insurgency.
He called on Muslims not to be provoked by the smear campaign and to pray continuously for peace and tranquility in the country.