By Kayode Sesan, Kingsley Kanayo
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved amnesty for the Boko Haram terrorist group, a top presidential source who spoke to BREAKING TIMES on condition of anonymity disclosed on Thursday.
According to the source, President Buhari has concluded plans on the amnesty grant for Boko Haram and the official announcement is expected shortly after discussions between government negotiators and Boko Haram terrorists have reached a fairly advanced stage.
“I can authoritatively tell you that the issue has gone beyond a plan, President Buhari has concluded on the issue, granted approvals and it will be announced soon”, the source said.
Contrary to earlier reports, which suggested that the Nigerian government is open to negotiations with Boko Haram alongside considerations of amnesty in a deal expected to put an end to the mass killings of innocent Nigerian citizens by the dreaded terrorist group, our source hinted that the idea of amnesty is not one Boko Haram has accepted. “President Buhari is actually acting proactively by offering amnesty to them in the hope of sealing a ceasefire deal with the terrorists. From all indications, Boko Haram has not agreed to lay down their arms for amnesty. But this new offer by President Buhari is expected to soften the terms of negotiation with them”, the source disclosed.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari declared that he is ready to negotiate with the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists, according to his spokesperson, Femi Adesina. Adesina disclosed this in an interview with BBC Africa. He said if Boko Haram members are willing, the president will negotiate with them.
However, this seems to be against the earlier stance of Buhari who during his campaign, promised not to negotiate with the insurgents if elected as president.
“Boko Haram is not interested in peace – if they are interested in peace, how can they kill 13,000 Nigerians?” the former military ruler told BBC News in February.
As news of presidential amnesty for Boko Haram filters from the Presidential villa, it is not immediately clear why President Buhari has adopted the carrot approach to dealing with the Boko Haram menace. “There must be a strategy behind it that we may not know about. You know the President is a retired military general and just returned from a trip to the US where he had discussions with President Obama on this Boko Haram issue. We can only watch events unfold within the next few days”, a security source told BREAKING TIMES.
The idea of amnesty for Boko Haram is however not one new to Muhammadu Buhari. In 2013 as leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Buhari backed amnesty for Boko Haram. According to him; “Yes, it is good they have set up a committee and I haven’t seen the terms of reference, but it is the right thing to do. This is not the first time amnesty will be given to … eh.. what shall I call them, a violent group; remember what happened with Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua and the militants. So, this is not the first time. Whatever that will bring peace to the society, we should do it.”
In a similar development, in 2013, the United States of America supported the call for amnesty for Boko Haram.
The Political Counsellor at the Embassy of the USA, Gregory Lawless, said in Abuja that the American government would support amnesty for Boko Haram if it was the solution to ending violence in the north and other parts of the country.
“We think it is a positive development. We will work with Nigerian government as it develops its own policy approach as to counter violent extremism,” Lawless said in a response to a question about the US position on the amnesty the Nigerian government was planning to grant the Islamic sect at a teleconference on US-Nigerian Bi-national Commission.
He added, “Security concerns in Nigeria would be addressed through our regional security cooperation working group as part of the Bi-National Commission.
“We are looking at a holistic approach to address the unmet grievances of the population, especially in the north.
“Through that mechanism, we think by broadening the scope of response to violent extremism, we believe that we will be addressing some of those issues in a more fundamental way.”
Boko Haram killed more than 13,000 civilians between 2009 and 2015, including around 10,000 in 2014, in attacks occurring mainly in northeast Nigeria. Upwards of 1.5 million people have been displaced in the streaks of their wanton bloodshed and violence.