AHEAD OF JONATHAN'S VISIT TO BORNO: SULTAN, NORTHERN GOVS SEEK AMNESTY FOR BOKO HARAM
Ahead of President Goodluck Jonathan's visit to Borno and Yobe states, the Sultan of Sokoto and president-general of the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III, has informed the president of the need to declare total amnesty for Boko Haram and all manner of combatant groups 'without thinking twice'.
The development came just as the Northern States Governors' Forum (NSGF), the umbrella platform of all elected state governors from the geopolitical north, has urged the president to declare a general and unconditional amnesty for Boko Haram members.
The Sultan, who spoke yesterday in Kaduna during an annual general meeting of the Jama'atul Nasril Islam (JNI), said, 'I want to use this opportunity to advise the president, as we heard he is planning to visit Borno State, to see how he can declare total amnesty for all combatants without thinking twice.'
The Muslim leader continued: 'The amnesty will make any other person who picks up arm to be termed as a criminal. If the amnesty is declared, it will make all those who have been tired of running and hiding to come out and embrace the amnesty.
'Some of them have already come out in fact; we read stories in the papers that some have come out. Even if it is one person that denounces terrorism, it is the duty of the government to accept that person because he can be used to reach others. Whether it is true or not, the government should accept that person first and deal with him, interrogate him to see if he really belongs or not.'
He noted further: 'Some people think we are not doing anything as leaders in the north. No, we have done enough. We will continue to do so despite criticisms because we know what we are doing. Insha Allah, we will continue to talk with the government to do just and fair in whatever they do.
Speaking on the recent religious riot in Wukari Area of Taraba State, the Sultan said: 'What happened in Wukari a few days ago was total madness beyond comprehension. If not, how can an issue between youths playing football lead to what happened in Wukari where the majority of victims have been Muslims. These are people that have been living for years peacefully. We have to debate on these issues so as to fish out solutions.'
Commenting on polio, the Sultan told both political and religious leaders to desist from falsehood.
'The bottom line is, we must never propagate falsehood on things we don't know. We as Muslim leaders should never come up with excuses on issues we don't know, especially on issues of polio. This issue has been disturbing us.
'Polio has been eradicated elsewhere in the world except in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We want to give our total commitment to polio eradication in Nigeria and we will continue to work with government at all levels to ensure that polio is eradicated in this country,' he said.
The revered royal father further said: 'We want JNI to be proactive to reach out to all Muslims and even to non-Muslims so as to tell them what Islam is and is not. There are lots of propagated lies from those who hate Islam and Muslims. It is our duty to tell these people that what they are hearing about Islam is not what Islam is all about.
Also speaking on the issue of polio eradication in the country, the minister of state for health, Dr. Ali Pati, disclosed that more than 98 per cent of the children suffering from polio cases bear Muslim names.
The minister further denied that there was any effort to sterilize Muslim children in the country, adding that the rejection of polio vaccines in the country is due to misinformation available to the people. According to him, 'we will not allow some people to misguide the populace'.
Declaring the conference open, Kaduna State governor Muhktar Ramalan Yero urged the Muslim Ummah to placed great emphasis on providing sound and functional Western and Islamic education for children. 'We cannot afford to let our children wallow in ignorance and poverty while the rest of the world is making ground-breaking innovations in science and technology,' Yero added.
Northern governors demand amnesty for Boko Haram
LEADERSHIP also learnt that the Northern Governors' Forum, which has the governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, as its chairman, is also requesting President Jonathan to order the immediate release of all detainees against whom there is no established case of criminal involvement and the prosecution of those against whom there is evidence of criminal involvement before courts of competent jurisdiction.
A source also told LEADERSHIP that another demand of the forum is a quick determination of the protracted court cases against the suspected killers of Mohammed Yusuf,
the founder and leader of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
It was also learnt that the forum is asking the federal government to consider not only the rehabilitation of the militants, but also to compensate those who, according to the source, have suffered in one way or the other during the Boko Haram insurgency as a sign of goodwill and national cohesion.
Besides this visit to Borno State, the forum would implore President Jonathan to also visit Yobe and Kano states, the source further disclosed, adding: 'During such visits, the president would be advised to meet not only the governments of those states, but also with a cross-section of the elders of the various communities.'
Gunmen kill Gwoza DPO, 9 others
Meanwhile, suspected members of Boko Haram,yesterday attacked the township of Gwoza, killing the divisional police officer there and at least seven civilians. The attack also targeted banks in the town.
Eyewitnesses said the militants rode confidently in two pick-up vans into the quiet township, 135 kilometres from Maiduguri, around 9pm.
The gunmen then unleashed violence on the area; they indiscriminately shot at civilians while on their way to raid the police armoury and a local bank.
President Jonathan is scheduled to visit the Borno State capital, Maiduguri ,and then Yobe State, starting from Thursday morning.
Preparation for Jonathan's visit gives Damaturu new lease of life
Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, which has been sleepy with little government activity for the past one month due to the absence of the state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, is having a breath of 'fresh air' as the president, Mr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, finally visits tomorrow for the first time since 2011.
Dilapidated roads that had been neglected are being repaired and painted in Nigeria's colours while public buildings, including the Government House, are being renovated.
Since the relocation of the state's principal officers from the town — and thousands of people therefore fled — the town has been taken over by bushes and potholes on roads over-pressurised as a result of constant hold-ups caused by roadblocks mounted by the Joint Task Force (JTF) tasked with combating security challenges.
When the president's visit was confirmed, the State Ministry of Environment had to procure sanitation equipment so as to clean the environment and make it 'healthy', according to Alhaji Wakil Sarki, the state's commissioner for environment, who spoke with journalists in Damaturu.
Wakil Sarki also disclosed that 'the ministry recently engaged 600 casual workers for sanitation exercise, and we are also sensitising the populace to the need for clean and healthy environment'.
Even though the commissioner said the cleaning exercise is meant 'to add aesthetic value to the city', Malam Madu Ajimi, a resident, was sceptical. 'Why not last week or last month?' he asked.
To him, the town has been dirty for too long and 'all of a sudden they now know aesthetics'. But the commissioner promised that 'the exercise will continue before, during and after Mr President's visit'.