Boko Haram: The amnesty option


Following sustained pressure from notable leaders from the Northern part of the country urging the Federal Government to grant amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect, there are strong indications that the amnesty option may become a reality as President Goodluck Jonathan recently instituted a committee to consider the possibility and workability of the option.

The president’s fresh consideration of the request for amnesty followed a recent meeting with Northern elders who paid him a visit on the matter in Abuja. The setting up of the amnesty committee has been generating ripples as it represents a remarkable shift from the president’s earlier stance that the government cannot grant amnesty to ghosts or a faceless organisation. Boko Haram insurgents have, however, been reported to have rejected the amnesty option via a recorded message in which its leader, Sheik Ibrahim Shekau, was quoted by Agence France Presse to have insisted that the sect had done nothing wrong.

The president’s decision to consider the possibility of amnesty for Boko Haram members is understandable. It is a welcome demonstration of his openness to suggestions that could stem this mindless insurgency that has seriously challenged the capacity of his government to secure the nation.

Although it has been said in some quarters that Jonathan’s new conciliatory attitude to Boko Haram and the setting up of a committee to consider the amnesty proposal is a fallout of his desire for re-election in 2015, the president really has no choice but to consider every suggestion that could end the ferocious activities of the sect that have reduced the Northern part of the country to a hotbed of violence.

The consideration of amnesty is, therefore, a good first step in the effort to make the sect unmask itself and engage government in productive dialogue that could lead to the end of the crisis. The institution of the amnesty committee has, however, not gone unchallenged in the country. Notable Nigerians, among them the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), have been in the forefront of the opposition to the consideration of amnesty for Boko Haram members.

The association, whose members have been the primary targets of Boko Haram attacks, has querried the wisdom of granting amnesty to a group that is responsible for the killing of people, most of whom are Christians. The amnesty proposal is one option that requires smart thinking by the Federal Government. While it is necessary to consider all avenues through which Nigeria can end this insurgency, the amnesty option has the potential to embolden ethnic militia from other geo-political zones in the country to take up arms against the nation in order to get their share of amnesty programmes.

It is doubtful if the government can afford to implement the Niger-Delta style amnesty in all geo-political zones of the country. Northerners asking for amnesty for Boko Haram members have always cited the amnesty granted to Niger Delta militants by the late president, Musa Yar’Adua, as an example of what Jonathan should do. But, it should be pointed out that there is a huge difference between the Niger Delta militants’ agitation and those of this Islamic sect. While the militants fought over the apparent neglect and environmental degradation of the oil producing areas, the Islamic sect is waging a sectarian war.

Niger Delta militants did not engage in mindless killing of Nigerians and unprovoked bombing of religious places of worship like the Boko Haram sect. The militants also accepted amnesty when the late President Yar’Adua offered them the olive branch. Let Boko Haram members do likewise. In addition to unmasking themselves, the sect members should demonstrate readiness to dialogue with the government. They should be remorseful for the killings and destruction they unleashed on the nation.

Though the sect may have some grudges against the government, dialogue still remains the best way to get redress for their grievances. In this new consideration of the amnesty option, government should note that amnesty should not necessarily involve huge financial payouts to insurgents and formation of commissions and ministries to address the perceived wrongs, as was the case with the Niger Delta militants. Amnesty means forgiveness of wrongs done to the state by certain groups. Making amnesty a money-disbursing venture will breed more insurgencies.

It will make the menace a profitable venture that will be replicated all over the country. This will not augur well for peaceful co-existence of the nation. Let governors of the Northern States play an active role in getting Boko Haram to embrace dialogue. Let government identify all the people and issues involved in this insurgency, preparatory to the proposed amnesty.

The planned healing process will, however, be incomplete if victims of the sect’s violence are not adequately taken care of. Perpetrators of the Boko Haram killings cannot be rewarded with compensation while their victims are ignored. We heartily welcome any move that will bring peace to Nigeria.

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  1. givin amnesty 2 sects dat dia aim is 2 islamise d country,dy wil use d amnesty money and get dm selves prepared and dis tym around nt even d ghost of late Gen.Abacha will stop dm,dis aliens fought 4 ntin good 2 b granted amnesty,d worst is dat d FG can’t even see dm and talk 2 dm d way yar’adua met wit niger delta militant and discuss wit dm

  2. Amnesty is an option to ensure peace for now but is not likely to work. I doubt if this BOKO HARAM people will be ready to accept all conditions that may be giving to them as a way of having a peaceful resolution. BOKO HARAM are desperate set of people and they are ready to die in the next minute. The exact thing they want is not clear to anyone. Unfortunately they pretend as muslim and their behaviour is far from what ISLAM(The religion of peace) teaches.

  3. What does that idiot agrees with? After all the mindless unjustified killings, destruction of properties, unnecessary chaos , and tension, painting the nation black, and could still open ur mouth to talk about amnesty for an uncivilised uncultured unrealistic, blood hunger group. Certainly you FREAKS bunch of illiterate will meet the devil that created you. And let me assure you this is a WRONG TURN….

  4. Ezerue G Ezenwa on

    Amnesty to Boko haram will certainly back fire , if fraudulent nigeria federal government will not give justice to the victims of Boko haram , The Almighty God will not fail , God is a God of peace and of War and also God of verge . Perhaps because 2015 selection / election is around the corner that is why , president of fraudulent nigeria in person of Good luck Jonathan want to please northern politicians .
    AS fa as nigeria is concern any thing evil is more than possible .

  5. Okwuosa Hilton on

    “When cat dey sleep rat go dey wake am, wetin en dey find ooo!! ? Waahalaaa you dey find….” – Fela.

  6. Oh! My der ppl i tink my president does nt repsnt de interst of whom he is leading. Lookin at dis issue critically dos de presidnt knw de implication to dat or dos he wnt 2 use dat opportunity to win their mind for de next election for his selfish intrest? Grntin amnesty to a sect dat ar visibl or invisible? If my presidnt ever do dat the implication is dat it wil inflame oda ethnic grp to aggitate for der own amnesty. So my presidnt look at the implication before u trow dis nation into warfare.

  7. This country is on the edge,we shall be tired of amnesty very soon,since it has become the order of the day not minding the irrationality of it.

  8. Orji V. I. C on

    Amnesty 4 BH, MEND, Illegal refinery operators bt treason trial 4 Massob leaders. A so called 1 coun3 full of injustice, operatn, wikednes n curuption can only hav a temporal relieve bt never no peace.

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