Govs Yuguda, and Goje apologize to Boko Haram over crackdown in 2009


- Two senior officials in northern Nigerian have offered public apologies to an extremist sect for any rights violations suffered during military crackdown on its armed uprising in 2009.

Bauchi state governor Isa Yuguda and the ex-governor of neighbouring Gombe state Danjuma Goje, made their apologies in separate statements.

"I apologise to the members of Jama'atu Ahlussunnah lidda'awati wal Jihad for perceived injustices caused them as they have the full rights to be protected by the law," Yuguda said in a statement released to AFP Saturday.

"I hope this will further the healing of the trauma on Jama'atu Ahlussunnah, the door to meaningful dialogue that will end hostilities and usher peace for which the religion of Islam is all about," he added.

Goje, now a senator, said "as a true Muslim, who believes in peace and brotherhood ... I hereby tender my public apology to the organisation for any wrong done to it in the course of performing my duty as the then governor of Gombe State".

The Boko Haram sect, which prefers to go by the name Jama'atu Ahlussunnah lidda'awati wal Jihad, is based in northeastern Borno state, but has also been active in nearby Bauchi and Gombe state.

It has been blamed for a recent wave of violence in the region.

The statements from the politicians appeared to be in reponse to the Boko Haram's demand for apologies as a precondition for dialogue with government.

The group's spokesman Abu Zaid had said they would hunt down the governors of Borno, Bauchi and Gombe states in comments published a week ago in the Daily Trust newspaper, which is widely circulated in the north.

"We would not relent in our efforts of searching for them until they come out publicly and apologize," Zaid told the paper.

Kashim Shettima, the newly elected governor of Borno state had already made overtures to the group.

He offered an amnesty to those of its members who renounced violence, a move backed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

But one of the conditions Boko Haram gave for dialogue was the strict application of Sharia law in the country's 12 predominately Muslim states.

Boko Haram launched a short-lived armed rebellion in a doomed bid to establish an Islamic state in 2009 in parts of the north.

The uprising was crushed by the military leaving hundreds, mostly sect members dead in the crackdown and its headquarters and mosque left in ruins.

Troops and policemen were accused of the extra-judicial killings of suspected sect members.

Seven policeman suspected of killing the sect leader Mohammed Yusuf are expected to face trial this month.

The sect has claimed responsibility for bomb attacks and shoot-and-run killings in the past year, including attacks on military and police personnel, community and religious leaders as well as politicians.