President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday constituted a fresh body, the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, in his bid to end the Boko Haram insurgency.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, who made this known in Abuja, said the decision followed Tuesday’s National Security Council’s consideration of a report of the technical committee commissioned by the government to review fresh ways of addressing security challenges in the North.
Jonathan also constituted a second committee on small arms and light weapons. The two committees will be inaugurated on April 24, 2013 at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The 26- member Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North is saddled with the responsibility of engaging members of Boko Haram in dialogue and designing a framework for resolving the violence precipitated by them.
The terms of reference of the committee headed by the Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki, include developing a framework for the granting of amnesty; designing another (framework) through which disarmament could take place within 60 days; developing a comprehensive victims’ support programme, and designing mechanisms to address the underlying causes of insurgencies that will help to prevent future occurrences.
The development confirmed The PUNCH’s exclusive report on Wednesday that the Federal Government had resolved to constitute a fresh committee that will be saddled with the responsibility of administering the amnesty for the Boko Haram members.
Abati said, “Following the consideration yesterday(Tuesday) by the National Security Council of the report of the technical committee it set up to review fresh modalities for addressing security challenges in the North, including the offer of amnesty, President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the constitution of a presidential committee to constructively engage key members of Boko Haram and define a comprehensive and workable framework for resolving the crisis of insecurity in the country. “
Members of the committee are a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi; Sheik Ahmed Lemu, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Col. Musa Shehu (retd.), Sheik Abubakar, Senator Sodangi , Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Mohammed, Bello Matawalle, Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim, Mr. Shehu Sani, Hajiya Naja’atu Mohammed and Mallam Adamu S. Ladan.
Others are Dr. Joseph Golwa, A. I. Shehu, Mr. R. I. Nkemdirim, P. I. Leha, Prof. Nur Alkali, Mallam Salihu Abubakar, Alhaji Abubakar Lugga, Ibrahim Tahir, Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo, Ambassador Ahmed Jidda and Group-Capt. Bilal Bulama (retd.).
A representative of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation will serve as the secretary.
The Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons which has 17 members will be chaired by Ambassador Emmanuel Imohe.
Its members are the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin I. Uhomoibhi; Ambassador T. D. Hart, Ambassador Ghali Umar, Ambassador B.G. Wakil, Mr. Opelusi Olureti, as well as the representatives of the Ministries of Interior, Justice, Defence, National Security Adviser, Director-General, State Security Service, National Intelligence Agency, DIA, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Customs Service and Office of the SGF.
The Director, International Organisations Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will serve as the committee’s secretary.
But a member of the 26-member Presidential committee and the Executive Director of the Civil Rights Congress, Shehu Sani, declined his appointment, saying he was neither consulted nor informed by the Presidency.
While thanking Jonathan for considering him worthy of such an appointment, expressed doubt about the viability of dialogue without first, a discreet meeting between individuals who enjoy the confidence of the sect and members of the sect.
Sani, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents said, “I thank the President for his gesture of appointing me, but I wish to humbly decline and reject being part of that committee for the basic fact that, what I stated earlier on this subject still stands.
“There is the need to initiate consultation with the sect to encourage them to embrace the amnesty and dialogue before we proceed.
“This consultation with the insurgents is what we need to do first before we talk of setting up a committee. You cannot simply wake up one day, announce amnesty and set up a committee without consulting them. You must have persons who on that committee have access to and respect of the members of the sect to initiate discussions with them.
“I have not seen on that committee people whom the sect will without reservation embrace as agents of dialogue. A committee headed by a minister in this government does not make any meaning to me.”
As a way forward he said, “If we want dialogue and the process of amnesty we need people who can reach out to the insurgents and these three people need to be considered. Number one is : Ahmed Shilkida; two, Hamza Idris; and three, Mustapha Zanna.
“If these people are not part of the process it is going to be difficult for this group to embrace this committee. I will love to contribute to peace and an end of the violence but I will not be a party to a fruitless process.”
Also the Christian Association of Nigeria, in a reaction on Wednesday, said that its position that amnesty should not be given to “a group of people with a pre-determined mindset “ still remained.
The General Secretary of CAN, Dr. Musa Asake, said that the umbrella body of the Christian community had made it unambiguously clear that it was not in support of amnesty and would not change its position “committee or no committee.”
“We have made our position very clear on the issue of amnesty and we stand by it, committee or no committee,” he said.
Asake added that nowhere in the world was an insurgent group granted amnesty because “more often than not, their demands are often irreconcilable.”
He then asked, “On which grounds would the amnesty be given?”