Amnesty rejection: North East, North Central not safe
Service chiefs call for stiffer measures
Citizens of the country, especially, those residents in the North East and North Central zones are said to be living in fear of another barrage of attack from members of Boko Haram.
And emerging report showed that the Federal Government has begun beefing up security at Nigeria’s land borders as fallout of the rejection of its planned amnesty by the Islamist sect, Boko Haram.
The move, it was gathered, was aimed at countering any offensive the sect might want to launch in the aftermath of its rejection of Federal Government’s proposed amnesty.
Consequently, the government has asked all military formations and security agencies to be on red alert in order to forestall fresh cases of insurgency nationwide.
Government, it was gathered, directed security agencies and the military not to take things for granted. Particular attention is being paid to strategic borders linking Nigeria with Niger Republic, Cameroon and Chad. Land routes and villages in such areas are suspected to be the hideouts of Boko Haram coordinators.
Military sources said: “The rejection of amnesty by Boko Haram has pointed to the fact that members of the sect can unleash terror on any part of the country. This has made the government to be proactive.
“All security agencies and military formations have been ordered to do their best to protect lives and property nationwide, especially in key Northern states like Kano, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Bauchi.
“Government has mapped out strategies to ensure that the insurgency is curtailed. That is why you see the JTF in Kano, Borno and Yobe engaging in pre-emptive surveillance and strikes where necessary.”
The dreaded Islamic sect had last Thursday, killed four policemen at Babban Gida Police Station in Tarmuwa Local Government Area in the North East State of Yobe to drive home their rejection while the security operatives in retaliation killed five members of sect.
Following the development, residents in different communities within these two zones are panicking over rumours of another attack from the sect which was said have retreated to reinforce for another attack.
Already, activities in the concerned states have reduced drastically. Most places visited were deserted and the few people on the streets who would not want their names on print expressed fear of another possible attack as being threatened in some quarters.
Some of the state governments have even imposed dusk to dawn curfew in some possibly volatile local government areas to curtail further attacks.
President Goodluck Jonathan last Friday held a closed door meeting with the service chiefs over the rejection of the offer of amnesty for the Boko Haram insurgents.
A military source disclosed that the meeting resolved, after an exhaustive session, that the rejection notwithstanding, government should still go ahead with the amnesty.
According to the source, the thinking was that the amnesty offer would offer a window of opportunity for those members of the sect that were being forced to remain in the sect to come out and surrender to the state, while those who continue to dare the government would be dealt with.
“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 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.
At the meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Azubuike Ihejirika; Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Alex Badeh and the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba.
National Daily also gathered that military authorities have resolved to present a common report and recommendations to the panel set up last week, headed by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), where they will insist on retaining soldiers on the streets of terror-prone states.
For instance, Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam has appealed to the citizens of the state to assist the Joint Task Force (JTF) operations with tips that could help in trailing the hideouts of the gunmen.
The State Commissioner of Police, Sunusi Rufai, also stated that measures have been taken to prevent further attacks, saying the state has embarked on intelligence gathering in order to fish out the culprits.
He said he was working round the clock to ensure that normalcy returns to state and assured that his men would do all it could to protect lives and properties of the citizens.
The leader of the sect, Mallam Abubakar Shekau, had last Thursday in an audio message spurned Federal Government’s amnesty offer, saying that rather, it was the government that wronged the sect and should seek forgiveness from it.
Abubakar Shekau, the purported head of Boko Haram who has been designated a global terrorist by the United States of America, as claiming that his group had ‘’not committed any wrong to deserve amnesty.’’
The sect leader 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?”
In Kano State, six members of the sect and a soldier were gunned down in a shootout when the JTF raided a hideout of the sect last week Friday.
Spokesman for the JTF, Ikedichi Iweha, said that one soldier was killed during a raid on a hideout of suspected insurgents in Sheka, Kumbosho Local Government Area of Kano, while six members of the sect were killed in a shootout there.
According to him, the clampdown on the terrorists’ hideout followed some arrests made by the JTF in Mariri Quarters, on the outskirts of Kano, which later led to the discovery of the hideout.
In Borno, the Borno State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Kaka Shehu Lawan said it was time for the insurgents to come out of the trenches and embrace peace.
He said the president after his initial stand that he was not ready to dialogue with faceless group had now come out with a plan to give amnesty to the sect, and noted that this must be encouraged.
Lawan said perhaps the federal government needed to show more commitment to the amnesty agenda so as not to be mistaken for a bait to lure the sect out for punishment.
He lamented that Borno State in particular has lost a lot from the Boko Haram crisis and that the people of the state could no longer wait for the return of peace.
Lawan said Governor Kashim Shettima had consistently called for amnesty and would be the happiest Nigerian if the presently plan of the federal government is allowed to work.
He said: “The Boko Haram sect should reconsider its position on the rejection of amnesty. I still appeal to the sect to reconsider their position in the interest of peace and dialogue with the federal government,”
He asked the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau to accept the amnesty so that millions of people who are living in fear could live in peace.
Another source informed that the service chiefs, in their report, stated that the soldiers should remain on the streets as long as the bombings continued. They faulted those calling for their (soldiers) withdrawal, insisting, “as long as the factor that brought the soldiers on the streets persists, our soldiers remain on the streets.”
The source further explained that the military strongly believes that some people are using the sect for political reasons, while some are harbouring them, believing they are fighting a worthy cause. He also said that there was a resolve to ensure good welfare package for the soldiers involved in the war against terror.
If their recommendations are accepted, some retired military officers might be among those that will constitute the amnesty committee. The recommendations may be submitted ahead of next week’s Security Council meeting.
President Jonathan had early last week mandated the NSA to set up a panel to study the possibility or otherwise of granting amnesty to the Boko Haram sect, whose members have been terrorising some states in the North in their quest to impose Sharia on the polity.
At the meeting presided over by the president were the NSA, the service chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar; the Director-General of the State Security Services, Ekpenyong Ita; Director, Military Intelligent (DMI), Brigadier- General Letam Wiwa; Director-General, Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Major General S. Y. Audu.
Others were the ministers of state for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada; Interior, Abba Moro, and that of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade.
The committee has as its terms of reference: To consider the feasibility or otherwise of granting pardon to the Boko Haram militants; collate clamours arising from different interest groups who want the Federal Government to administer clemency on members of the religious sect; and to recommend modalities for the granting of the pardon, should such step become the logical one to take under the prevailing circumstance.