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Presidential panel wants amnesty for B’Haram, civilian ‘JTF’, others

By Madu Onuorah and Emeka Anuforo (Abuja)
15 May 2015   |   3:00 am
THE Presidential Committee on Continued Dialogue and Resolution of Security Challenges in the North has turned in its report to the Federal Government, offering far-reaching recommendations on how to end the insurgency and other related security challenges in the region.
Boko Haram militants

Boko Haram militants

• Beneficiaries to be rehabilitated
• Niger Delta model to be followed

THE Presidential Committee on Continued Dialogue and Resolution of Security Challenges in the North has turned in its report to the Federal Government, offering far-reaching recommendations on how to end the insurgency and other related security challenges in the region.

Among other things, the report, which was obtained exclusively by The Guardian yesterday, called on the Presidency to grant amnesty to combatant members of the Boko Haram and Ansaru sects who renounced violence and were willing to disarm and re-integrate into the community. The same gesture was also proposed for those whose crimes or membership could not be proven.

President Goodluck Jonathan had, in opting for multi-faceted approach towards solving the problem of insecurity especially in the North East, constituted the subterranean committee to work outside the public view towards negotiating for ceasefire, amnesty and immobilisation of members of the terror group.

The constitution of the panel was one of the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North headed by Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, (SAN).

The Turaki-led committee had, while submitting its report to Jonathan on November 5, 2013 recommended among others the setting up of an advisory committee on continuous dialogues that will have powers to advise the President on all matters related to dialogue and resolution of crisis. It also recommended the setting up of a Victims Support Fund for victims of insurgency to be administered by a new agency established specifically to assist the victims.

The Guardian had in March last year reported exclusively on the empowering of the 10-man high-powered committee, also headed by the Minister of Special Duties/Inter-Governmental Affairs, which among other terms of reference, was to develop together with relevant agencies of government, a framework for the granting of amnesty; develop and implement together with relevant agencies of government, a framework for disarmament and further the development of strategies and mechanisms to address the underlying causes of insurgencies with a view to preventing future occurrences.

And if government accepts the recommendations of the committee, the framework used for the Niger Delta amnesty and disarmament programme may be studied to serve as a model.

The panel also recommended that for the famed hunters, ‘civilian JTF’ and other vigilante groups thatassisted in the fight against insurgency, they should be properly rehabilitated and catered for so that they do not constitute another security threat after the current war may have been won.

With the May 7, 2015 submission of the report of the committee to the Presidency, sources told The Guardian that there is not much the out-going government could do as regards implementation, thus leaving the incoming government of President-elect, Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) the option of jettisoning or implementing it.

Part of the report reads: “The centres should be under a committee comprising the military and other relevant stakeholders.

“Government should carry out adequate publicity so that members of the insurgents, who indicated substantial interest to renounce membership of the two sects and renounce violence, would not be arrested.

“There should be timely announcement of the grant of amnesty to encourage willing members of the sects to disarm. This would further weaken the position of unrepentant insurgents.”

In addition, the report stated that “all contacts identified as vital to facilitating dialogue between the Committee and key members of the sects should be encouraged and granted amnesty. However, suspected criminals among them should be isolated and brought to justice to forestall encouraging criminal activities while those with light crime or believed to have been misled, should be granted amnesty.

Traditional ,religious and community leaders should advice on the best way to encourage those that were ready to disarm and benefit from the amnesty since they could easily reach out to people around them, including the insurgents.

“Detainees arrested without proof or evidence of involvement in the insurgency should be granted amnesty. Repentant insurgents who would benefit from the amnesty should be reintegrated and rehabilitated because most of them were jobless.

“Vocational training centres should be set up to train repentant insurgents on vocation jobs to enhance self-employment;

“The understanding and support of local communities should be enlisted because they could be agitated to allow the released repentant members of the sect to reintegrate into the community.

The report noted how the committee established contacts with ‘reliable’ members of the Boko Haram willing to give up armed struggle and stressed the need to negotiate with smaller or splinter insurgent groups that are willing to embrace dialogue and surrender their weapons.

The committee made a subtle reference to alleged interference from certain government officials in the execution of their assignment, and called for caution.

The report continued: “Boko Haram and Ansaru sects should be disarmed simultaneously. However, in the event that only one of the armed groups is ready, then disarmament should proceed. The three frontline states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa should be the main focus of the disarmament programme.

“Mr. President should make a pronouncement to declare the commencement of the disarmament programme to lend credence to the programme as well as forestall contradictory statements by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The disarmament programme should be situated in identified military barracks within the affected states.

“The major collection centre should be located in Maiduguri, while initial collection points should be sited close to the areas of the insurgency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states before airlifting the weapons collected to a safer place outside the conflict areas, where the environment is considered safe for storage of the arms.”

It added: “Adequate security should be provided at the collection points to prevent possible attempts to steal some of the collected weapons to ensure accountability. There should be incentives such as skills acquisition and vocational training as well as de-radicalisation programmes for the disarmed insurgents, subject to government policy, considering that the disarmament programme would not be linked to cash payments.

“There is need to interface with critical stakeholders, including those that participated in the Niger Delta disarmament programme so that the framework of the Presidential Committee on Niger Delta Amnesty and Disarmament programme could be studied to serve as a model.

“There is need to study the models of disarmament of other countries such as Ireland, Liberia, South Africa and Sierra Leone, among others, as well as visit some of these countries.”

The report harped on the need for comprehensive victim’s support programme and the strategy for its implementation.

To this end, it recommended that medical facilities should be provided immediately to assist the victims.

“There is need to rehabilitate those who had lost property, business concerns or have been deformed by the insurgency. This should also be an immediate palliative. There is need to assist orphans of the insurgency and children whose parents are too poor to educate them, so as to prevent them becoming liabilities to the society. It also entailed rebuilding schools and other educational infrastructure.

“Employment should be used to assist the unemployed to set up small and medium scale business, in order to reduce the teeming unemployed youth that can be exploited by undesirable elements to instigate crisis in the society. Farmers should be assisted to procure fertilizers and other farm implements to facilitate their going back to farm,” it stressed.




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