Jonathan Challenges Borno Elders On Boko Haram
SAN FRANCISCO, March 08, (THEWILL) - President Goodluck Jonathan, Friday in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, slammed the elders in the State over the increasing rate of violence in the state.
This came only a day after he declared in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, that there won't be any amnesty for members of the Islamic fundamentalists for now.
Comparing the escalation of terror attacks in Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe and Kano States with that of Borno, President Jonathan lamented that the attacks in Borno resulted from more from antagonisms.
"From what I gathered from the governor of Yobe during my visit, the problem is coming down, it is coming down in Adamawa, in Gombe, in Bauchi and in Niger but in Borno, we still have some problems . So if you elders will not condemn it, you will continue to suffer under the terror of Boko Haram because without peace we cannot develop Borno,” Jonathan said.
He explained that Borno would continue to have security challenges unless the elders rose to condemn the activities of Boko Haram.
Speaking at a Town Hall meeting with elders and leaders of the state to end his two-day visit to Borno and Yobe States, President Jonathan challenged the elders to sign an agreement with him as a pre-condition for the withdrawal of members of the Joint Task Force (JTF).
He said no one was interested in militarising any part of the country especially Borno State if not because the situation called for it.
"I am not comfortable with the way you spoke, the conclusion from the speakers is that there are so many bunkers in Borno or Maiduguri "I am not impressed with the way some spoke especially on the issue of bunkers. Who made this? No one would be interested in building this and bringing soldiers to Maiduguri.
"Do you think the Federal Government is comfortable paying the allowances of keeping them (soldiers) here?"
"I am ready to sign an agreement with the elders of Borno State that if anybody is killed, they would be held responsible . I assure you that I would ask members of JTF to pack their luggage and leave the state forthwith. After all, we are not happy that we are spending extra money which would have been used in developing infrastructure to provide extra-ordinary security.
"Me and the heads of the security agencies do not want to pay one day allowance to anybody. We need that money for other important things that will change the economy of this country. We need that money to fund agriculture and to create wealth across this country, including Borno State. We are not happy to be spending so much money keeping JTF in Borno State and other places. Definitely, we are not.
"In fact, if the elders agree now to come and sign agreement with me that I should move out all the JTF; but if anybody dies in Borno State, I will hold them responsible, I will sign and move the soldiers out,” he declared.
President Jonathan, who was apparently moved by the barrage of requests from the elders especially on the issue of amnesty and withdrawal of the JTF, who they allege perpetrate human rights violation, said: "If elders in Borno state cannot talk to members of Boko Haram, their destructive activities would not reduce and nobody would bring such activities down."
According to Jonathan, ”If we the elders of Borno State will not condemn it, we will continue to suffer under the terror of Boko Haram and without stopping Boko Haram, without peace in Borno State, we cannot develop Borno State.
"Who will come and invest in Borno State? You award road contracts, who will come and work? Nobody! So, let us not play to the gallery."
He said his administration was ready to dialogue with any individual or group that makes itself available for dialogue, stressing that this is only possible if the government knows whom to talk with and such leadership of the insurgents make themselves available.
Some elders, including the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, Professor Nura Alkali ; Minister of Mines and Power in the General Yakubu Gowon's regime, Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno,; Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno and the state chairman of the People Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Baba Basharu had narrated the gory details of the mauling of innocent citizens in cold blood while JTF engaged the Boko Haram insurgents.
But Jonathan explained that commanders have been cautioning their soldiers to be civil in their relationship with civilians, emphasising . “ I would not celebrate the killing of a single soldier who I sent out to protect the lives of innocent people and such soldier defies rain and shine to do so. I would not sit in Abuja and allow hoodlums to take over the control of any part of this country," he said.
The state governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima , enumerated the devastating effects of Boko Haram not only on the economic, commercial, social and other aspects of the growth of the state, but also the meagre resources accruing to the state government for the execution of developmental projects.
Though the President promised to go into consultations with key members of the federal cabinet with a view to ameliorating the financial burden of the states affected by the Boko Haram operations, Shettima asked the President to take a practical decision on the whole issues.