President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday called on members of the Boko Haram sect to lay down their arms, saying that the Federal Government was open to engaging the sect in constructive dialogue to end insurgency in the North East zone of the country.
Jonathan stated this in Abuja when he declared open an international seminar on the Observance of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in Internal Security Operations.
The seminar themed “Engendering Greater Understanding of the Legal Underpinning of Internal Security Operations”, held at the National Defence College, was co-hosted by the offices of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF and the National Security Adviser, NSA.
The president invited members of the sect to table their grievances before the government, had they any.
He however said that the military operations in the troubled areas would continue to safeguard lives and property, while the government waits for the sect’s response.
“Our administration has committed tremendous resources and adopted several approaches to prosecuting the fight against terror in Nigeria.
“The declaration of a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states is one of the measures taken to contain the activities of the terrorists.
“The National Committee on Peace and Dialogue in the Northern parts of the country was constituted to explore ways of dialoguing with the Boko Haram sect with a view to addressing their grievances, if any.
“I wish to use this platform to renew my previous call to members of the sect to lay down their arms and engage government in a constructive manner in order to address their grievances, if truly they have any reason to do what they are doing.
“However, while we are awaiting a positive response from the Boko Haram sect, it is important to note that government has the responsibility to protect the lives and property of our citizens.
“No efforts will be spared by this administration in discharging that responsibility.’’
The president commended the organisers of the seminar, which he said was meant to ensure that the efforts to tackle the security challenges in the country were carried out within the confines of the law, “is apt, most critical and relevant.
“This seminar comes at the most appropriate time given the degree of security threat facing our country and it is imperative for us to effectively address the threat within lawful and acceptable international norms,’’ he said.
Jonathan said that because of the ‘’brutal’’ manner the Boko Haram carried out its attacks, it was impossible to rule out infractions by the military.
Jonathan said he had directed the Chief of Defence Staff and the Service Chiefs to ensure that relevant human rights and international humanitarian norms were emphasised in the training of members of the armed forces.
He admonished members of the armed forces to act with a high sense of responsibility and avoid any criminality in the discharge of their duties.
“We are faced with the challenge of dealing with a group that does not feel obliged to observe the basic tenets of human rights and humanitarian precepts in their modus operandi.
“As the Commander in Chief, I am particularly concerned about the manner in which the men and women of the armed forces discharge their responsibilities in spite of the daunting pressure,” the president said.
The seminar was attended by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensaoda, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukhtar and the Supervisory Ministers of Defence and Police Affairs, Labaran Maku and Olajumoke Akinjide, respectively.