Prominent groups and individuals, on Saturday, differed on the unconditional amnesty by the Federal Government to Boko Haram terrorists or any other group who surrender their arms, denounce militancy and pledge loyalty to the government.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOMBEN) and other groups across the country spoke on the proposal announced by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday.
The ACF, in a statement made available to newsmen, described the offer as a welcome development.
But, the ASOMBEN described the move as capable of creating more problems for the country rather than solving the issue of insurgency, noting that the Boko Haram “does not deserve amnesty, being one of the worst terrorist groups in the world.”
In a similar vein, a factional president of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eric Omare, criticised the plan to grant amnesty to Boko Haram, noting that it was a step in the wrong direction.
Amnesty to Boko Haram, others, welcome development—ACF
The ACF had, in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, in Kaduna, on Saturday, said: “Considering the insecurity posed by the insurgence in the last nine years, the offer of unconditional amnesty to Boko Haram and any terrorists group is a welcome development.
“It will be recalled that the Biafran rebels and Niger Delta militants who denounced their rebellion and militancy against the state were not only granted amnesty but also empowered with skills and re-integrated into the society to contribute to its socioeconomic development.
“The spirit of amnesty is, therefore, to stop the killings, destruction of property and also denounce further rebellion and militancy. So, any step taken by the government to end the current security challenges in the country cannot be too costly, as long as it is done in accordance with worldwide best practices.”
Boko Haram doesn’t deserve amnesty –ASOMBEN
But ASOMBEN, a group comprising nationalities in the Middle Belt, countered the amnesty offer by the government, saying that the insurgents, based on the havoc “they have continued to wreck on the nation by way of senseless killings and destruction of properties, are murderers who should be classified as terrorists and treated as such.”
ASOMBEN, through its national secretary, Reverend James Pam, said: “We are surprised that the government is talking of amnesty considering what this group has done to this nation. It is one of the most dreaded terrorist groups in the world; they have killed so many people and traumatised a lot of people. It is unfortunate that in spite of this, the government is considering amnesty for them. If government should do this, it will lose its credibility in the comity of nations. This group doesn’t deserve amnesty at all.’’
Niger Delta leaders criticise move
Similarly, leaders of the Niger Delta condemned the plan, describing it as a wrong step.
The leaders such as foremost Ijaw leader, Chief Okorotie; factional IYC worldwide president, Eric Omare; Bayelsa State chairman of the Civil Libertyies Organisation (CLO), Chief Nengi James, among others, spoke with Sunday Tribune on the development, accusing the Federal Government of lack of transparency on the matter.
Stressing that there is more to President Buhari’s assertion to offer the insurgents amnesty because of what he described as the “unconditional release of the abducted 110 Dapchi school girls,” some of the leaders alleged that the president’s statement was a plan to pay members of the Boko Haram sect like the ex-Niger Delta militants who are receiving stipends and enjoying training/scholarship benefits.
Omare maintained that the government would be toeing a wrong path if it went ahead with the offer of amnesty to terrorists, adding that they were not like the ex-Niger Delta militants who were fighting for a course and did not engage in wanton killing of fellow human beings.
Okorotie submitted that the ploy to extend same offer to the Boko Haram sect like the ex-militants had been mapped out long ago, noting that the Buhari Presidency “is only prepared to act the script.”
In the same vein, Morris Allagoa maintained that President Buhari was only testing the waters to see whether Nigerians would accept the move, but that the move had continued to face criticism because the sect had engaged in mindless bloodletting.
Ex-IYC president, Comrade Udengs Eradiri, said it was on record that the sect members released by the immediate past administration went back to unleash mayhem on innocent Nigerians.
Govt should stop abusing amnesty—Mulade
The National Coordinator of the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), Comrade Sheriff Mulade, in his own reaction to the granting of amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect, decried what he called the seeming abuse of the amnesty waiver for criminals in the country.
Mulade said although the safe return of the Dapchi girls was a welcome development, granting amnesty to the group should be well-thought out.
He said care must be taken to ensure that such action was not construed as encouraging armed militias and criminality in the society.
Mulade added that if amnesty must be granted to the insurgents, as it was done Niger Delta militants, it must be to the entire insurgents and not a few individuals.
He warned against creating an impression that amnesty had become another form of employment which underscored the fact that the government had not been able to create am enabling environment for its teeming youths.
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