By NBF News

The Federal Government yesterday clarified that, the Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East has no mandate to negotiate with faceless Boko Haram rather, the forum is a fact-finding one and urged people to avail it with information and suggestion on way forward.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, made the clarification at the inauguration of the committee with a two-week time frame to summit its report. He urged the people to volunteer information on the sect.

He made the clarification when the Chairman of the committee, Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, appealed to the sect to take advantage of government's gesture and embrace dialogue. He said, 'now that the Federal Government has taken the initiative to reach out to the leadership and adherents of the Jamatual Ahlus Sunna lid Da'awatis Jihad also known as 'Boko Haram', I would like to plead with the sect to embrace dialogue process.

I assure them that all their genuine grievances will be addressed by the committee and appropriate recommendations made. I want them to accept this peace process which would not only translate into peaceful co-existence of all of us, but also enable them to freely come out and settle down to practise their religion and carry out other lawful activities like any other Nigerians'.

But in a swift reaction, Anyim said, 'I tried in my briefing to give a background to this committee and I know it had been very much in the media that the Federal Government has set up the committee to negotiate with Boko Haram. I think it is not the proper situation as it is, because, that should be the second leg of the assignment.

You don't negotiate with whom you don't know, these people we don't know them, they are faceless. But we said we are providing a forum whatever information you have, whatever opinion you have, whatever suggestion you have, give it to this body. If by the time you finish your assignment, you are able to identify them, then you now advise us on what to do either to talk or not to talk with them.

'For the purposes of your present assignment, negotiation does not come in, because you don't know the people you are going to negotiate with, but that is not to say that, after your report, whatever you recommend to us, we will now implement. So I want to clarify that the purpose of this committee like I said earlier, is to provide a forum whereby every person who have suggestions, opinion, information on the way forward should have access to the committee. The committee would scrutinise the information and advise us. So, please let me emphasis, this is not a negotiating team, it is a fact finding team, it is a forum to identify a solution'.

Members of the committee are Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, Mr. Joe Kyari Gadzama, Col. Musa Shehu (rtd), Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, Minister of Defence, Bello Haliru Mohammed, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, and Abdullahi Shehu from the Office of the SGF will act as Secretary.

The terms of reference include: review all the issues of security challenges in the zone and proffer solutions/recommendations, which would bring a speedy resolution of the crisis;  serve as a liason between the Federal Government and the State Governments, where necessary; liaise with National Security Adviser (NSA) to ensure that the security services discharge their respective assignments with optimal professionalism; consult with stakeholders from time to time for suggestions; to ascertain the true state of affairs; and  consider any other initiatives that would engender enduring peace and security in the area.

Anyim said, the committee was set up as a result of a meeting between the President and elders of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), on the best way forward.

'One of the issues agreed at the meeting was the need to create a forum that will give the elders and the general public, role in finding a lasting solution to the security situation in Borno State and some parts of the North.

'In line with the belief of Mr. President that security of the country should be the concern of every Nigerian, he decided to set up this Committee as a way of invloving all the key stakeholders in finding a lasting solution to the security challenges in Borno State and other parts of the North'.

The committee is required to complete it's assignment and submit a final report to government on or before August 16th, 2011.

In his remark, Galtimari while pledging the committee's commitment to the call of duty also expressed opmimistism to get to the root of the crisis and arrive at just and all inclusive solutions which would usher in an era of peace in the country.