For the Federal Government to engage in direct negotiations with Boko Haram, the group has to constitute a credible leadership or its leader Ibrahim Shekau has to publicly renounce violence and embrace dialogue as a path to peace.
This was the position of the Federal Government as articulated Monday by the National Coordinator of Counter Terrorism and Insurgency in the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj.-Gen. Sarkin Yakin Bello.
Besides, an Islamic group, Ansaru, Monday claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of foreigners on a construction site in Bauchi last weekend.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the nation’s security agencies to take “all necessary actions” to locate and rescue the abducted foreigners.
Jonathan also commiserated with the family of the guard who was reportedly killed in the attack on the site.
Bello also disclosed that the country would soon set up a National Counter Terrorism Centre that would serve as a processing centre for all intelligence, which would address the peculiar security challenges of the country.
Bello said at the National Defence College, Abuja while addressing visiting top United States military leaders and their Nigerian counterparts that Nigeria had a primary interest in the containment of the terrorists in Mali as the country had been providing safe haven for the Boko Haram elements in Nigeria.
Noting that membership of the terrorist groups also included nationals drawn from Niger, Chad and Cameroun, Bello declared that “to finally solve the Boko Haram challenge in Nigeria, the umbilical cord between it and other terror groups need to be broken. And that is what is happening right now in Mali. Most of the insurgents in Northern Nigeria come from Mali. So, we have a primary interest to contain the terrorists in Mali. There is a containment interest, which is in our national interest. That (Mali) is where Boko Haram members get their training, funding and bases. They are well established there.”
Explaining that the Federal Government was not averse to negotiating with the terror group as a way of bringing peace, Bello said that “if a credible leadership shows itself, government is ready to negotiate with them. If (leader of the Boko Haram sect, Ibrahim) Shekau can come out, using his usual medium, to renounce violence, the government will be ready for the dialogue.”
He stated that of all forms of terrorism in different parts of the world including the United States of America and Israel, that of Nigeria was peculiar. “I have not seen any country as challenged as Nigeria. For Nigeria, it is people like me, people like you, living in the same area, with same language that are the members of the Boko Haram. They live among us. Some are our cousins”, he said.
However, the anti-terrorism chief disclosed that “in the last two months, the nation’s security agencies have been able to sufficiently degrade the Boko Haram group such that they are incapable of carrying out coordinated attacks in various cities in Nigeria.”
He added that “the challenge of terrorism is for all and it requires all Nigerians for it to be resolved. To contain terror, there is need to up the capabilities of the security and defence agencies.”
He said that in addition to setting up the National Counter Terrorism Centre, the Federal Government would soon launch a policy to tackle unemployment especially in the North as unemployment had provided a ready pool for recruitment of terrorists.