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NIGERIA: NJI’s solution to Boko Haram and polio

Jonathan and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar IIILast Thursday, President Goodluck Jonathan responded to the request of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar pleading for amnesty for members of Boko Haram. The  President insisted during a State Visit to Borno State that people who need amnesty must come to the open.  However, the Sultan’s request was within the context of the insinuation that the leadership of the North was not doing enough to stem the tide of violence occasioned by the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram.

But between the Sultan and the President and beyond public remonstrations, both men are well equipped to employ back door channels if truly they are not intent on playing to the gallery. Below is the report of the meeting of the Ja’amatu Nasril Islam (JNI) held in Kaduna where the Sultan made the request that has since become controversial.

Last weekend, former Defence Minister, Gen Theophilus Danjuma, declared, at the Ahmadu Bello, Zaria (ABU) special convocation, that the North was embroiled in a “civil war”.

His assertion has not been disputed in view of the forlorn human development index of the region, which has got worse since the 2011 political violence, and the steady rise of Islamist group, Boko Haram, in  many states of the North. For all that people are wont to say about the violence caused by Boko Haram, Muslim leaders in the North have agreed that they have a role to play in stopping me.

But, that is not the only problem, especially in the far North. Last month, nine female health workers were mowed down by bullets of assassins fighting against the vaccination of children against wild  polio virus. Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan remain the only countries with the wild polio. The Sultan told Muslim leaders in the North when they  met to find a way forward at the Ja’amatu Nasril Islam (JNI)  headquarters in Kaduna over these setbacks that he would like government to give amnesty to Boko Haram members.

Abubakar’s speech at the meeting entitled,’The need for truth and the guidance of the Almighty Allah (SWT)’:

This afternoon, we shall discuss what is happening to the Ummah in this great country of ours.
May Allah (SWT) let us to deliberate qualitatively, bluntly, with history on our side, knowing that what ever we say, whatever we do, he sees, we don’t see him.  It is our responsibility as leaders to always say the truth even if it is affecting us unpleasantly. This meeting will allow us and our political leaders and other religious leaders (to say) the blunt truth and what the way forward is for this great country. We believe that at the end of this deliberation, we shall have a communiqué, and that communiqué will be widely circulated up to the Federal Government as our own contribution to the development and peaceful co-existence of every citizen of this great country.

Concerns about insecurity
My dear brothers and sisters, we are facing great challenges in this our great country. And as Muslims, we owe it a duty to everybody to exist positively, to peace and stability of Nigeria.  We have been talking, and we must continue talking, and we will not get tired of talking until the Almighty Allah (SWT) takes us away. And we believe that it is only when we talk, when we dialogue that issues will become clearer. In this hall, I believe that we are all God-fearing, patriotic; we all love ourselves and we all love our neighbours as Almighty Allah’s (SWT) religion says.

We want to bring to attention of the government our challenges. As Muslim leaders, we feel very concerned and very, very worried the way things are going on in Nigeria today, especially the insecurity issue in this country.

We have problems in the North, we have in the South East; we have in the South West and in the South-South. We believe that it is the duty of the government to protect all of us. Ours is to only advise and we will continue to advise the government to do what they should do, if they don’t, we will continue to tell them to do the right things and that is why we have to work closely with them.

The problem of terrorism
My brothers and sisters, what happened in Wukari a few days ago is a total madness beyond comprehension. Because if you follow the news, how can an issue between the youths playing football turn into what happened in Wukari where the major victims have been Muslims. You have been living together for centuries (ands all) of a sudden you say you don’t want to live with one another. These are some of the things we shall be discussing. Either there is something somewhere we don’t know; or we come to the table together (with the other side) and seek for solution.

By the grace of God, we believe that the issue of security or rather, insecurity – terrorism and the likes – shall be discussed. We have terrorism, everywhere, everyday.

On declaring total amnesty for Boko Haram members
We have heard in the news that the President shall be visiting Maiduguri in a couple of days. And praise be to God, that the Shehu of Borno is here and he will be briefing us this evening.

We want to use this opportunity to call on the government, especially Mr President, to see how he can declare total amnesty to all combatants (Boko Haram) without thinking twice.

That will make any other person who picks up arms to be termed a criminal. If amnesty is declared, it will give so many of those young men who have been running and hiding the opportunity to embrace that amnesty. Some of them have already come out, because we have read in the papers that some have already come out.

Amnesty as an effective tool
Even if it is only one person that denounces terrorism, it is the duty of the government to accept that person and see how he can be used to reach others. It is left for the government to use that person, evaluate him and see whether he is genuine or fake.

Efforts of Northern Muslim leaders
These are some of the things we are pushing for, yet people will be saying that, we are not doing anything as Muslim leaders in the north. No! We are doing much more than what any other person has done. And I want to commend you all. We will continue to do more despite criticisms.

At this point, we are calling on the federal government to be just in whatever thing (it does). As Usman Dan Fodio has said, “a society can endure with unbelief, but cannot endure with injustice.  The problem with us is that of injustice meted out to people who are not meant to feel such. By the grace of Allah (SWT), we shall continue to speak to the federal government on this.

We have invited the Minister of Health to join us today. He is a Muslim leader, but we have never invited a Minister to our meetings before. He is here to talk to us on the issue of polio. He is the Chairman of Polio eradication. He is going to give us a brief on areas of controversy concerning polio. And as we go into the close door session; we shall discuss this and come out with a possible solution.

On the need not to propagate falsehood
We must never propagate falsehood on what we don’t know. As Muslim leaders, we must come out with the authenticity or otherwise of these claims. Polio has been eradicated all over the world, except in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We must show total commitment to the total eradication of Polio in Nigeria

The meeting ended as stated in the communiqué below.

The Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) held its Annual Central Council Meeting on Tuesday, 23rd Rabi’u-Thani, 1434AH(5th March, 2013) at its Headquarters in Kawo, Kaduna . The meeting comprised two sessions, namely the opening ceremony and the plenary session, both of which were presided over by the President-General of the JNI, His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni. and was declared open by the Governor of Kaduna State, His Excellency Alhaji (Dr.) Mukhtar Ramalan Yero.

The Opening Ceremony attracted a cross section of distinguished personalities that included the Honourable Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, distinguished Royal Highnesses Emirs, Islamic Scholars, Academics, and the Executive Secretary National Primary Health Care Development Agency Speeches were delivered by His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Excellency, the Governor of Kaduna State and the Honourable Minister of State for Health.

The issues that featured prominently in the speech of His Eminence included the state-of-the-nation, the upsurge of insecurity and violence in all parts of the country, the need to confront the problem of religious insurgents decisively and with stronger political will that should include declaring amnesty to whoever is willing to surrender and embrace peace among the insurgents.

Other issues raised in the speech are the need for leaders to be upright and more responsible in leadership and to dispense justice and fairness to all, the importance and necessity of Muslim unity, the need to accept the polio eradication programme based on informed opinion and avoiding prejudices on the issue. He also expressed happiness over the progress so far recorded on the JNI repositioning efforts and the benefits that have started to be derived therefrom, as demonstrated in the improvements recorded in the efficiency and effectiveness in its activities and the need for further revitalizing its Da’awah activities and efforts, among several other things.

In his speech the Governor of Kaduna State emphasized the need to meaningfully intervene in the Almajiri education system with a view to eliminating the untenable practices associated with it. Furthermore he stated that after security, his Government attaches greatest attention to education as it is the most significant agent of development in the present era of globalization. In his speech, the Honurable Minister of State for Health, essentially dwelt on the issue of polio vaccination wherein he tried to clarify the misunderstandings and misconceptions associated with it.

The meeting made the following observations:
1.  That the cases of violent conflicts have unfortunately not only continued to recur unabatedly but have also monumentally grown in terms of magnitude and proportion across the country.

2. That the recent unfortunate incident of armed conflict in Wukari, Taraba State which emanated from dispute between two individuals on football smacks of high level of intolerance just as it signifies premeditated aggression against innocent Muslims.

2. That in spite of the serious security and existential challenges facing the Ummah the problem of disunity in the Ummah has continued to not only persist but is also taking dangerous dimensions that are further wreaking a great deal of havoc on the Ummah.

3. That enemies of peace have continued to vilify Islam and Muslims through various campaigns of calumny.

4. That the polio issue has continued to remain both a controversial and misunderstood issue especially in Northern Nigeria .

5. That the menace of street begging while still persisting as an eyesore, has continued to dent the image of the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria.

6. That the efforts of repositioning the JNI have gone really far and have already registered a great deal of success, making remarkable impacts on its overall administrative and operational efficiency.

7. That Muslims are still being denied their constitutional rights to practice their religion unhindered and are even being persecuted in some instances as recently witnessed in some parts of the country.

In the light of the observations made, the meeting resolved as follows:
1. That the JNI would not relent in its efforts at advising leaders at all levels to be more sincere, proactive and responsive in handling cases of conflicts. Government should be seen to be fair, just and impartial in dealing with such conflicts.

2. As a way of curtailing religious insurgency, the meeting called on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency treat the case of insurgents with all sense of magnanimity by declaring amnesty to all of them, especially combatants that have expressed readiness to tread the path of peace.

3. Rather than further dividing and weakening the Ummah the meeting called on Islamic scholars and preachers to necessarily foster the spirit and mechanisms for cooperating mutually and working together in the interest of Islam, in spite of their differences of opinions.

4. That in the spirit of mutual respect, tolerance and peaceful coexistence the meeting calls on a section of the press and preachers that propagate hate, blasphemy to desist from such unwholesome attitudes and tendencies.

5. The meeting resolved to continue to partner with relevant stakeholders in the campaign towards the eradication of polio by maximizing efforts at educating the general public as well as using meaningful dialogue as far as possible to resolve the controversies surrounding the issue.

6. That although it appears to be seemingly an intractable problem, the meeting believed that strong political will and commitment on the part of the government at all levels supported by genuine and broad based intervention of all stakeholders the Almajiri Education System can be positively improved and uplifted to a level that can make it relevant and effective in addressing the educational challenges and aspirations of the Ummah.

7. That having been convinced of the meaningful progress and positive results already recorded by the JNI repositioning efforts, the meeting resolved to continue to give all necessary encouragement and support to the drive to ensure sustainability .

8. That the meeting frowned at the way Muslims, especially women are being denied their constitutional right to observe their religious duties without any encumbrances. It also condemned the persecution of Muslim women in some states simply because they observe the Hijab, particularly the case of the Principal that brutalized a Muslim student in a Secondary School in Lagos State .

9. That bearing in mind the prevalence of ignorance in the Ummah and the existence of teeming population of non-Muslims that are ignorant about Islam, the meeting called on the JNI and other Islamic organizations to intensify and diversify their Da’awah work and strategies.

10. That the meeting called on the government at all levels and all stakeholders to exert greater efforts and commit more resources in the education of our youth and children and to also put in place an enduring Muslim manpower development plan.

11. That the meeting also reaffirmed its confidence on the leadership of the JNI and all the Emirs while combining their roles as royal fathers and custodians of Islam.

Finally, the meeting expressed profound and sincere appreciation and gratitude to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Vice President, His Excellency, Architect Muhammad Namadi Sambo for their continues support and understanding. Similarly, the meeting commended the government of Kaduna State and expressed sincere thanks to it for its relentless support and hospitality to the JNI whenever it undertakes any activity or project. It also expressed thanks and gratitude to the Committee that executed the project of renovating its burnt auditorium and to all those who contributed in that regard.

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