Boko Haram: Jonathan may consider amnesty, meets Northern leaders

There are strong indications that President Goodluck Jonathan may announce amnesty for the dreaded Islamist sect, Boko Haram, any moment from now, if ongoing consultations with key Northern leaders are anything to go by.
The President met with members of the Northern Elders Forum, led by Alhaji Maitama Sule, late on Wednesday, during which the issue of amnesty was extensively discussed.
The insurgents have carried out series of attacks in the northern part of the country and Abuja, that have claimed thousands of lives and property worth millions of Naira destroyed.
Former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting, said President Jonathan told them that he was already holding consultations on the modalities for granting amnesty.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, who was also at the meeting, confirmed this.
Maku said the platform for granting amnesty was being worked out as it was done in the case of the Niger Delta militants.
The Northern Elders Forum had met with the President about nine months ago to discuss various issues of interest to the North but the issue of amnesty was not on the card then.
Abdullahi had this to say about the late night visit to the Presidential Villa: “It is simply a follow up visit on the invitation of Mr President.
“Many of you will recall that about eight to nine months ago, we were here to interact with the President on matters of the nation.
“We submitted a memorandum to him and he promised that he was going to take a look at our submission and at some future time, he will call us back.
“We have had dialogue on the issues we have raised in our submission and this is precisely what transpired today.”
On the security situation in the country and the call for amnesty for the insurgents, Abdullahi said: “I am sure you agree that there are challenges in the country, particularly in the area of security.
“That is the greatest challenge the country is facing today and we did spend a lot of time discussing the various issues on security matters.
“What we discussed is that the general opinion in the country is that amnesty may be factored into whatever the government is trying to do to overcome this violence all over the country.
“Fortunately, the President is already thinking very hard on it and I think he assured us that the there is a special meeting on the matter (amnesty) tomorrow (Thursday) and I am sure something substantial will come out of that meeting.”
Corroborating Abdullahi, Maku said: “Northern Elders Forum brought the position that they believe government should consider amnesty for the insurgents in the Northern part of the country.
“They believe that this should be the position that most Northern elders presently hold and that it will enable them to exercise some influence in the process of achieving peace in the Northern part of the country.
“Of course, the President said government has never really said there will be no amnesty but that there must be a process and a structure if amnesty was to succeed.
“And then, we discussed extensively the pre-conditions for amnesty in the Niger Delta, the platforms that were set up to discuss with the militants.
“And in the case of the North, amnesty cannot be granted in a vacuum.
“There must be a process.
“There must be a structure and there must be a way of holding everyone to account in terms of the amnesty process if amnesty is eventually considered.
“The President further said he is indeed engaged in extensive consultations with quite a number of key leaders in relation to this issue of amnesty and that further consultations are going on within the week to take a look at how feasible could it be.
“We have always offered negotiation.
“The reality has been that nobody has ever stepped out to take responsibility for this negotiation with government.
“And so, the President said we are reviewing the entire negotiation to see if, indeed, conditions could be created for credible discussion to take place.”
Present at the meeting were Paulen Tallen, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Kali Gazali, Hajiya Safiya Mohammed, Solomon Dualung, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, Shehu Malami, John Wash Pam, Lawal Kaita, Bello Kirfi, Paul Unongo, AVM Al-amin Daggash, Sani Zango Daura, N.A. Sheriff, Yahaya Kwande, Saleh Hassan, Muslim Maigari, Bashir Yusuf, General Paul Tarfa, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Prof. Idris Mohammed, Captain Paul Tahal and Captain Bashir Sodangi.
From the government side were Vice President Namadi Sambo; the Chief of Staff to President Jonathan, Mike Oghiadome; the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki; Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqqayat Ru’fai; Minister of Water Resouces, Sarah Ochekpe; Presidential Advisers on Media and Politics, Dr. Reuben Abati and Ahmed Gulak.