- As Jonathan declares total war
By Hassan Haruna Ginsau & Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The federal government has offered to grant amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect who are prepared to lay down their arms and embrace peace.
This is coming at the same time President Goodluck Jonathan declared total war on the Boko Haram insurgents, saying:” I have instructed our security forces to launch a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil”.
Minister of Youth Development, Mr Boni Haruna, disclosed the government’s offer of amnesty to the violent sect, yesterday at a special event tagged “A day with young leaders of Nigeria”, to mark the nation’s Democracy Day held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
“President Goodluck Jonathan has also declared amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect.
“Series of integration programmes have been lined up for the members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.
“Let me use this opportunity on behalf of the federal government, to call on the members of the Boko Haram sect to embrace the government’s gesture and key to amnesty programme”, the minister appealed.
President Jonathan had earlier in his broadcast to the nation on the Democracy Day celebration, equally alluded to the official pardon offer to Boko Haram. “For our citizens who have joined hands with Al Qaeda and international terrorists in the misguided belief that violence can possibly solve their problems, our doors remain open to them for dialogue and reconciliation, if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace.
“My government, while pursuing security measures, will explore all options, including readiness to accept unconditional renunciation of violence by insurgents, and to ensure their de-radicalization, rehabilitation and re-integration into the broader society”, the president said..
While giving an overview of youth’s position in the present administration’s transformation agenda, Mr. Boni Haruna explained further that a series of integration programmes have been lined up for members of Boko Haram who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.
He recalled that in the wake of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta, the government came up with a development programme which provided opportunities for them to express themselves and have meaningful life.
In his Democracy Day broadcast to the nation earlier yesterday, Jonathan said he had authorised the security forces to use any means necessary under the law to crush Boko Haram. “I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again and these thugs will be driven away. It will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.
“I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism. The unity and stability of our country and the protection of lives and property are non-negotiable.
He called on Nigerians devoid of religious and political affiliations to join hands with the federal government in the fight against terrorism.
“We must remain united to win the war against terrorism. Christians, Moslems, farmers, fishermen, herdsmen, teachers, lawyers, clergy or clerics, the rich, the poor and Nigerians from all sections of the country must work together with our security agencies and armed forces to overcome the terrorists who now threaten all that we hold dear.
“The war against terror may be difficult, but the days of peace will come again. Terror is evil; nowhere in history has evil endured forever. The menace of Boko Haram will surely come to an end. I believe that because of your prayers, your courage, hard work, faith and sacrifice, we will ultimately prevail over the terrorists and all other evil forces.
This would be the second attempt by the government to pardon sect members in return for them to lay down arms.
It may be recalled that the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts in Northern Nigeria, led by Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, came under severe criticisms last year when the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, denied government claims that they had entered into a cease-fire agreement with the sect.
Upon rejecting the amnesty offer, Shekau said his group had done no wrong and so an amnesty would not be applicable to them.
The government itself has been double-speaking on the issue of dialogue and negotiation with the sect, saying in one breath that its doors are open to all options that would end the insurgency, and in another spitting fire as a means of tackling the menace.
See full text of President Jonathan’s national broadcast on Page 31