By Audu Liberty Oseni
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration has consistently claimed it is not in touch with Boko Haram members, emphasizing the faceless nature of the group. This, the administration claims makes its efforts of combating the insurgence very difficult. As the claim continues, may we remind them that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan had met with some Boko Haram members and discuss with them (Tanimu Turaki amnesty committee).
You recall that after months of debates on granting amnesty to the Boko Haram sect, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on the month of April, 2013 set up 26 man committee chaired by the Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki with a representative from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation serving as a Secretary. The committee was given the following terms of reference (1) To consider the likelihood of granting pardon to the sect (2) Collate opinions from different interest groups who want the government to allow for clemency on the sect members and (3) To recommend modalities for granting amnesty to the sect if that is an option for the government.
The committee in discharging its terms of reference met with Kabiru Sokoto and 39 sect members at the Kuje Minimum Security Prison. They were hosted by the Assistant Controller of Prisons, Nuhu Zuru. The committee chairman Kabiru Turaki, in addressing the press, told State House correspondents that they met with the sect one-on-one.
In similar circumstance, Kabiru Turaki, in Lagos prison met with 104 Boko Haram suspects. At first, they met with the 34 sect suspects at the medium prison, and later proceeded to maximum security prison, where they met with 70 suspect sect members under the command of DCP Olumide Tinuoye. Kabiru Turaki was quoted by both print and electronic media to have said, we visited the prison principally to interact with suspects detained with acts relating to terrorism, we have interacted with them and their response was encouraging.
After 7 months of consultation, the committee submitted report of its findings to President Goodluck Jonathan, although it made it clear that the leadership of Boko Haram refused to dialogue with them despite their concerted efforts to reach the leadership. However, they affirmed that many key members of the sect in prison custody accepted the dialogue option and also see it as means of resolving the insurgence. But the question is, did they accept dialogue because they have been captured and detained, or they genuinely want to leave terrorism and be integrated back to the society. Away from the question which we must ponder on, one of the key recommendations of the Kabiru Turaki committee report is for the President to set up an advisory committee on continuous dialogue. The president assured them of government willingness to study the report and set up a committee to engage further dialogue.
In March, 2014, 20 Boko Haram suspects detained at the Department of State Security Service (DSS), Asokoro, Abuja, were reportedly killed in a gun battle by the security agents for attempting jail break. Further buttressing the truth that some of the sect members are in government custody. Also on 13th May, 2014, residents of Kalabalge village, Borno state foil Boko Haram attack, killed over 200 of them, arrested ten of them and handed over to the security agents. In a similar circumstance, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, the co-mastermind of the April 14, 2014 Nyanya bomb was arrested through the efforts of the Interpol, Nigeria police and the Department of State Services (DSS). This was made known by the Coordinator of the National Briefing Centre on Security, Mr. Mike Omeri. The alleged Boko Haram leader Shakarau was quoted to have demanded government to release all the sect members in the government custody as a condition for setting free the 270 girls abducted in Government Secondary School Chibok, Borno state, by the Boko Haram sect.
Having had a good number of Boko Haram suspects in our prison custody and their continuous arrest and detention, does President Goodluck administration has any justification in its claims, we do not know Boko Haram, and we do not have reliable information about them? My submission is that President Goodluck administration does not want to end Boko Haram insurgence for two principal reasons: (1) for political gains (2) conflict entrepreneur. Our soldiers have engaged in mutiny, angry ones on May 14th, 2014 shot the General Officer Command, 7 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed. A development that portends danger to Nigerian state, some undisclosed sources alleged, junior officers became rebellious because of the way they were being treated, their allowances are not being paid and weapons not procured for them to use on the battle field making it practically impossible for them to combat the insurgence and become prey in the hands of Boko Haram sect.
This is the reality despite three trillion naira spent over the last three years on security. The questions yet to be answered are: was the three trillion spent on arms procurement? Why are arms not available for soldiers on the field? Is anybody responsible for our military failure in combating the insurgence? Why insecurity has continues to manifest despite the huge amount of monies expended on security? What are we not doing right?
One thing is very apparent, with our political leadership, exclusion in governance, youth bulge, unemployment, poverty and inequality the Nigerian state will continue to experience insecurity and unrest. This is because the competition for scarce resources and class struggle will be a long struggle for the state and the citizens. More fundamentally, the lucrative nature of conflict entrepreneur both in terms of political, economic and unsolicited fame is another factor that is likely to spur insecurity in Nigeria.
As we search for solution, it is important that we engage the services of conflict experts who understand the dynamics of conflict mediation and also carry along communities that are affected by the insurgence when designing our conflict resolution mechanism.
Audu Liberty Oseni is a Programme Officer at Centre for Democracy and Development.