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NIGERIA: North Insists on Amnesty for Boko Haram Members

Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammed Sa'ad Abubakar IIIThe Northern Traditional Rulers Council yesterday urged the federal government to reconsider its stand and offer amnesty to members of Boko Haram and other violent Islamic sects who are willing to embrace peace and reintegration into the larger society.

The call is a resolution that emerged from the council's meeting held at the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammed Sa'ad Abubakar III.

This comes on the heels of Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso's claim that some federal government's policies are largely favourable to a particular section of the country, at the expense of the North's economic and political interest.
“A situation whereby NDDC is working for a particular region, a ministry entirely dedicated to serve a particular region and so many resources invested in the SURE-P project and directed towards a particular part of the country is not in the best interest of all Nigerians,” he said.

In a statement issued by the coordinating secretary of the council and Emir of Kazaure, Alhaji Najib Hussaini Adamu, the group comprising traditional rulers from across the North called for decisive action from the federal government to curb the "unfortunate escalation of insecurity in the country".

The statement read: "The meeting calls on the Federal Government to consider dialogue as the better option in resolving the crises. To this end, the federal government is called upon to reconsider its stand and offer amnesty to the insurgents who embrace the path of peace, reformation and reintegration with the larger society. This is the norm the world over and there exists a precedent in Nigeria."
It noted that the insurgency was not targeted at non-Muslims as the majority of the victims were Muslims, saying attempts on the lives of Emir of Kano, Shehu of Borno and Emir of Fika were testimonies to this fact.

The council further noted that the rising rate of youth unemployment offers militants a potent source of recruits and urged the federal government to take the necessary steps to create jobs and fight poverty.
It also reaffirmed the commitment of traditional leaders in the North to continue to work with governments at all levels to entrench peace in the nation.

The Northern Traditional Rulers Council expressed their condolences with families who have lost their relatives in the campaign of violence launched by Boko Haram.

The traditional rulers council's meeting and subsequent resolution comes about two weeks after President Goodluck Jonathan's visit to Yobe and Borno states, culminating in his reprimand of the latter's elders who had called for the withdrawal of the military task force (JTF) in the state during a town hall meeting.

Jonathan had insisted that if the elders of the state were not ready to take steps and ensure the insurgency is brought to an end, then "they should be ready to live with pains that it has created and perhaps forget issues of development".

The president had also said the federal government could not grant amnesty to "ghosts" given that members of the sect remained largely faceless. He was speaking in response to the request for amnesty for the sect's members.

Governor Kwankwaso spoke while receiving members of the Arewa Consultative Forum's executive council at the government house in Kano, during the group's visit to commiserate with the state government over the recent suicide bomb attack that claimed several lives in the state capital.

The Kano State governor argued that a lot of the challenges currently facing the country today are caused by the uneven distribution of resources among all sections of the country by the government, lamenting that even appointments and political patronage are not as balanced as they should be.

Kwankwaso said he has spoken consistently on the onshore/offshore dichotomy debate and, lately, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), adding that his aim had always been to secure justice and to ensure that parts of the country that already have enough are not given priority over the deprived ones.

He called on federal legislators from the North to strive to ensure that justice and fairness prevail with regard to the PIB currently before the National Assembly, as well as other issues, in order to overcome the challenges facing the country. The federal government, he added, must also work towards ensuring impartiality among all sections of the country.
On the security problem in some Northern states, Governor Kwankwaso attributed this to poverty and collapse of family and societal values among others, pointing out that governments and other stakeholders in the region have to do more collectively to address the crisis, so that peace and progress do not continue to elude the region.

The governor therefore urged the ACF to pay more  attention to the dire situation prevalent in Northern states like begging and drug abuse, mainly among the youth, pointing out that the organization has a vital role to play in mobilizing the people and governments in the region to do what is right.

He promised that his administration will continue to do its best in meeting the yearnings and aspirations of the citizenry, adding that it will also continue to collaborate with ACF to achieve its goals.
ACF chairman, Alhaji Aliko Muhmmad, lamented the current security situation in the country, arguing that Boko Haram and Ansaru have remained faceless largely because “governments have not put any mechanism on ground to assure the sects that they would not be arrested and dealt with by security agencies".

According to Muhammad who holds the traditional title, Dan Iyan Misau, the clamour for amnesty is premised on the realisation that the region would thrive only in an atmosphere of peace. He noted, however, that the position of the ACF and many other Nigerians in favour of dialogue with the sects is informed by the "fact of history" that force alone has never succeeded in bringing terrorism under control anywhere on earth.

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