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FG Ponders Amnesty For Boko Haram As Jonathan, Security Chiefs Hold Crucial Meeting

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 04, (THEWILL) – Indications emerged Thursday that the issue of amnesty for members of the dreaded Islamic sect, Jama’atul Ahlus Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, is being seriously considered by the Federal Government as President Goodluck Jonathan met with top security chiefs at the Aso Villa for several hours to discuss the ways out of the general insecurity in the country.

Pointing to this direction was the establishment of a committee by President Jonathan within the membership of the National Security Council (NSC) on the feasibility and modalities to be adopted if the Federal Government eventually decides to grant amnesty to Boko Haram members .

An impeccable presidency source said the committee will work closely with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and is expected to submit its report to the president when the council meets again in a fortnight.

The terms of reference of the committee include : to consider the feasibility or otherwise of granting pardon to the Boko Haram adherents; collate clamour arising from different interest groups who want the Federal Government to grant amnesty to members of the religious sect; and iii) to recommend modalities for the granting of the pardon, should such step become the logical one to take under the prevailing circumstance.

Thursday’s meeting was a follow-up to a meeting the president held with the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Wednesday night, during which he told them that he would convene a crucial security meeting the following day.

Members of NEF at the meeting included Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, Alhaji Kali Gazali, Dr. Safiya Mohammed, Mr. Solomon Dalong and Sheikh Ahmed Lemu. Also in the delegation were Alhaji Shehu Malami, Sen. John Wash Pam, Alhaji Bello Kirfi, Gen. Paul Tarfa (rtd), Alhaji Lawal Kaita, Dr. Paul Unongo and AVM Allamin Daggash. Others were Alhaji Sanni Daura, Alhaji Yahaya Kwande, Alhaji Sale Hassan,Alhaji Bashir Yusuf, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Prof Idris Mohammed, Capt. Paul Tahal and Capt. Bashir Sodangi.

Though there was no official confirmation on the position the Federal Government may eventually take on the issue, Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, told State House Correspondents after the meeting that the issue of pardon to Boko Haram members was part of the issues discussed. The minister, who also disclosed that the meeting considered matters arising from the works of the Presidential Committee on Police Reform as well as other issues of insecurity in the country , said “It is just a way of moving away from this insecurity and see what we can do to ensure that it is reduced to barest minimum.”

A northern leader and former Minister for Education, Professor Ango Abdullahi, Wednesday, told State House correspondents at the end of NEF’s meeting with the president that Jonathan was contemplating options open to him on the issue of Boko Haram, saying “I'm sure something substantial will come out of that meeting.”

He disclosed that NEF, led by former diplomat, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, had deliberated with Jonathan the issue of pardon to Boko Haram members and the preponderance of violence in the north.

According to him, the northern leaders impressed it on the president that the issue of amnesty to the Islamic sect should be reviewed and considered in “what the government is trying to do to overcome the violence that is taking place all over the country or most part of the north.”

“Fortunately, the president is already thinking very hard on it and I think he assured us that there is a special meeting on the matter tomorrow,” Abdullahi, who is also a former Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Food Security explained .

He added: “The contention here is that the country is facing challenges and I'm sure that you will agree that there are challenges in the country particularly in the area of security. That is the greatest challenge the country is facing today and we did spend a lot of time discussing the various issues on security matters.”

However, all the service chiefs kept mum on the issue after Thursday’s meeting as the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Muhammad Abubakar and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki as well as the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ibrahim Ola Sa’ad, refused to offer any comment when confronted by inquisitive journalists who wanted to have an insight into what transpired during the meeting.

But speaking with journalists at the close of Wednesday’s meeting, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, confirmed what the NEF spokesperson said. "The issue of security also came up, and the Northern Elders Forum brought the position that they believe government should consider amnesty for the insurgents in the Northern part of the country.

"They believe that it is the position the most Northern elders presently hold to enable them to exercise some influence in the process of achieving peace in the Northern part of the country," Maku said.

"The President said that government has never said that there will be no amnesty but that there must be a process and structure if amnesty is to succeed.

"Again we discussed extensively on the amnesty that took place in the Niger Delta which attracted extensive discussions and the platforms that were set up to discuss with the militants.

"In the case of the North, amnesty cannot be granted in a vacuum.

"There must be a process, there must be a structure and there must be a way of holding everyone to account in terms of the amnesty process if amnesty is eventually considered.

"The President said that no one has ever said that there will not be amnesty but there must be certain conditions for amnesty to be useful in the process of using it as a mechanism for achieving peace as it

relates to the Boko Haram insurgence.
"The President further said that he is indeed engaged in extensive consultations with quite a number of key leaders in relation to the issue of amnesty and that further consultations are going on within the week to take a look at it and see how feasible could it be."