Why We Rejected Amnesty Panel Membership, By Datti Ahmed, Sani

By The Citizen

THE President of the National Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) in Nigeria, Dr Datti Ahmed, who was among the few Nigerians selected by the Presidency to serve on the committee that would evolve ways to grant amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect, yesterday said he declined to serve on the panel because he was sure it was nothing more than a kangaroo arrangement to appease some interests.

Also, civil rights activist and leader of the Northern Civil Society Coalition, Mallam Shehu Sani, who was named by the Federal Government as a member of the 26-member committee to discuss with the leaders of Boko Haram and come up with disarmament and amnesty programme, has given reasons why he turned down the offer, even as controversy trails the move.

But Secretary to the Borno State Government (SSG), Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda, Friday accepted the offer to serve on the committee, provided members' work could end the Boko Haram insurgency in the North.

He said: 'I and the former Vice-Chancellor of University of Maiduguri (UMTH), Prof. Mohammed Nur Alkali are on the Presidential Committee on Boko Haram Amnesty. The members are of proven integrity that could bring peace in the North. I have personally accepted the offer to serve on the committee, provided the recommendations that will be presented in our report to President Goodluck Jonathan are fully implemented by Federal Government. I am looking forward to our inauguration by the President next week Wednesday at Aso Rock.

Besides, former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, commended the federal government for constituting the committee as a possible way of bringing to an end the current security challenges in the north.

But Datti Ahmed observed that the committee was bound to fail because it was not formed with sincerity of purpose. All what the government is doing, according to him, is merely a waste of time and resources, saying to serve on the committee would also amount to self-deception.

He made this known to The Guardian in a telephone interview yesterday. He revealed that he and other people advised the government on how to tackle the insecurity situation caused by the Boko Haram attacks in some parts of the north. 'But government rejected all the proposals we offered then because that was not in the shopping list of the government at the time,' he alleged.

Ahmed added: 'If the government is serious about the present move of amnesty, they should appoint independent and fair-minded people to chair and serve on the committee so that we can have credibility of what would be the outcome of the committee'.

The late Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf was also a member of the Supreme Council. That was why he was close to Ahmed, like many other members in the Council.

As part of the things that would show sincerity of purpose on the part of the government, Ahmed said all the detained women and children of the Boko Haram members should be released immediately. He added that military on the streets of Borno and Yobe should also be withdrawn. That, according to him, would a pointer that government was serious about it.

Ahmed alleged that he was not contacted before it was announced that he was a member of the committee. 'And I don't participate in something that I know will fail. Government is only looking for cheap popularity by just going to the media and start singing that so and so people are the members of the committee,' he said.

Sani, on his part, told The Guardian in Kaduna yesterday that his action was based on principles, pointing out that the government has failed to meet certain conditions to win the confidence of Boko Haram leaders before setting up the committee.

He stated: 'We can achieve peace and achieve dialogue if we do things the right way and through the right approach. But they have consistently taken the wrong approach and fallen into a series of scams which I am not prepared to be part of.

'There were three so-called declarations of ceasefire and dialogue in the past, most of them simply under dubious characters organised by some people with the aim of defrauding the national treasury.

'I cannot be part of this committee for these reasons. The first reason is that I was not personally consulted on whether I have an interest in joining the committee or not, nor was I consulted on my views on the issue the amnesty.'

He continued: 'If they had consulted with me, I will personally give them advise on how to go about it, one of which is that there should be an off-the-camera consultation with the leadership of Boko Haram so as to get their consent and also get their input.

'By doing that, we carry them along on whatever is going to be done and then hold them responsible by being part of it.

'And then we can set up a committee later, of which half of the members will be representatives of the government and half representatives of the sect. It is then that we can work out a process of a ceasefire and a process of taking stock of the damage that this madness has done.' Guardian