President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday held a closed-door meeting with his service chiefs to discuss how the federal government would respond to the purported rejection of its proposed amnesty for the Boko Haram by the sect’s leadership.
On Thursday, the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, was reported to have rejected the amnesty scheme and declared that it was the federal government that needed the gesture. The group’s position is said to be a cause for concern to the presidency.
In a 30-minute audio recording in Hausa, Arabic and English, Shekau said that his group had “not committed any wrong to deserve amnesty”, adding that it was the government that should be seeking amnesty from his group and not the other way round. He further said that even though the sect was the one wronged and the one that should be asked for amnesty, it was not ready to grant any pardon to the government.
He said: “We are the one to grant them pardon. Have you forgotten their atrocities against us? We are surprised that today it is the federal government saying it will grant us amnesty. Oh God, is it we who will grant you amnesty or you are the one to grant us amnesty?
“What have we done? If there is room for forgiveness, we are not going to do it until God gives us permission to do it. Have you forgotten your sin, have you forgotten what you have done to us in Plateau, the state you called Jos? We emerged to avenge killings of our Muslim brothers and the destruction of our religion. Was it not in Plateau that we saw people cannibalizing our brothers?”
It was learnt that as soon as President Jonathan resumed work in his office he sent signals to the chief of defence staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim, asking him to report in the Aso Rock with his team immediately for an important meeting.
When the service chiefs resumed work yesterday, none of them had any inkling of having any meeting with the commander-in-chief of the armed forces but, about 10am, Admiral Ibrahim asked them to get ready for a meeting with the president and “like a bolt from the blue, the chief of army staff (Lt-Gen. Azubike? Ihejirika), the chief of air force (Air Marshal Alex Badeh) and the chief of navy, (Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba) had lined up their cars waiting for the CDS to lead them to the Aso Rock Villa,” a source said.
Although the details of the meeting were sketchy at press time, a military source disclosed that the meeting discussed the rejection of the proposed amnesty by Shekau and his faction of the sect and the next line of action to take.
‘‘What I can tell you now is that President Jonathan and the service chiefs met to discuss the next line of action with the rejection of the amnesty by the Shekau group. They deliberated whether they should still go ahead with the programme or not with the new development and after the usual frank talk among themselves, they resolved to go ahead with the programme for political and strategic reasons, ‘’ the source disclosed.
Speaking further, he explained that the meeting wanted to prove the critics of Jonathan wrong — those who thought he was not ready to grant amnesty like he amnesty by his late predecessor, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, that restored peace to the Niger Delta. He said the meeting agreed that the gesture would allow those that are being forced to remain in the sect to have a rare opportunity to surrender to the state while those who dare the federal government would be dealt with.
Former head of state and national leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Gen. Muhammadu Buhari,? former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, former head of state Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji? Sa’ad Abubakar,? Catholic bishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan and the leadership of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and other influential groups in the north (except the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN) have welcomed the amnesty, which the sect has rejected.
LEADERSHIP WEEKEND further learnt? the presidency is going ahead with the inauguration of the amnesty committee, which would spell out conditions to be met in order to prevent the project from being hijacked by unwilling insurgents.
Insurgents will accept offer – JNI, ACF
Meanwhile, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) yesterday declared that the purported rejection of the amnesty offer by Jamatu Ahlis Sunnah lil daawati wal jihad sect (Boko Haram) would not deter the scheme.
In a reaction, JNI said, “The reaction of the Boko Haram sect is normal, they are just being human, their position will not stop the amnesty process and offer. Even the president rejected the idea before, but now he has accepted it and decided to give the amnesty to the armed group.”
The ACF’s spokesman, Anthony Sani, said “it is too early to react to the rejection of the proposed amnesty”.
He said that since the amnesty conditions had not been worked out and made public, it would be too early to express any fears over its possible failure. “The aim of the amnesty is to enable members of the sect to show up for negotiation. But, it would be foolhardly to expect all the insurgents to accept the amnesty immediately. So, it may drag, but as the process progresses, we hope the reluctant ones among them will reconsider their positions and accept it.”
Speaking to journalists at the JNI headquarters in Kaduna, the secretary-general of the body, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said: “The government must look for them, ask them to come out, then create a conducive atmosphere of dialoguing with them. They are human beings, they will comply, they will accept the amnesty.