Over 5,000 members of the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram as well as their wives and children, may benefit from the proposed Federal Government amnesty for members of the group.
Members of the Federal Government’s amnesty committee would, among other things, recommend a phased release of members of the sect currently in detention, reports have said.
The children and wives of the sect members would be released first before other detainees, as this, according to sources would assist the committee and the Federal Government in winning the confidence of the sect.
The committee, which is to be inaugurated on Wednesday next week, is expected to initiate dialogue with leaders of the sect at a yet-to-be determined date, time and venue.
A top security source, who pleaded for anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said, “Some wives, children and relatives of members of the sect are among those being detained.
“As for the venue of talks should members of the sect accept dialogue, the source said, “They may opt for Saudi Arabia or any other country they consider a neutral ground, like they did in the past. This is because they still cannot trust that government will not use the venue of the talks to further hunt them down.
“Trust is still a big issue here; the question remains whether the sect will trust that government will be sincere this time around and not resort to behaviours that led to the breakdown of similar attempts in the past.
“Just like those in government, they also have hardliners. This group of members are likely to give near impossible conditions such as the rebuilding of their homes and places of worship destroyed by government forces and the like. ”
The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, had last month urged the Federal Government to give amnesty to the sect members.
As much as the call was echoed by some prominent Nigerians, a lot of Nigerians showed their displeasure.
It has been strongly opposed by the Christian Association of Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan who had earlier said an emphatic no to amnesty for Boko Haram however changed his mind after some meetings with northern elders and security chiefs.
The President who made good his promise on Wednesday by naming a 26-member amnesty committee headed by the Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki had two members of the committee, Shehu Sani and Dr, Datti Ahmed reject their nomination on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Sani, a civil rights activist expressed doubts about the possibility of success for the committee.
“I have not seen people in that committee whom members of the sect will trust enough to dialogue with,” he said.
“A committee headed by a serving minister does not look to me as serious. For this committee to make progress, these three people must be part of it: Ahmed Shilkida (a freelance journalist), Hamza Idris and Mustapha Zanna. If these people are not part of the committee, it is difficult for it to succeed.”
A leading member of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, confirmed that 5,000 Boko Haram fighters were likely to benefit from the amnesty, and also debunked the notion that Boko Haram members are faceless.
“We cannot say these people are absent because about 5,000 of them are in detention. You (journalists) are the ones reporting that (Boko Haram) commanders so, so, and so have been arrested.
“So we agree that there are senior commanders in detention and I think there is this opportunity even for physical contact between the group and some members of the group and government.
“Most reasonable opinions agree that the use of force will not solve this problem. The way forward is to encourage dialogue; it may be difficult at first, but we must try everything possible to encourage interactions between members of the group and the committee.”