Indications emerged last night that President Goodluck Jonathan may have resolved to declare amnesty for the Boko Haram sect.
This was the outcome of a meeting between the president and the leadership of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) at the presidential villa, Abuja.
This is even as Jonathan has summoned a security meeting with chiefs in the country, which will be held today at the presidential villa.
Jonathan also used the occasion to deny ever ruling out amnesty for the sect.
The president is expected to set up an amnesty commission to fine- tune details of clemency to the sect members.
Former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Prof Ango Abdullahi, told State House Correspondents after the meeting which ended at about11:30pm that the president’s response to the call for amnesty at the meeting, which is sequel to the one held between the president and the NEF in May last year, was positive and that he assured the NEF delegation that the amnesty for the insurgents will be tabled before the security meeting today.
Abdullahi said, “The meeting is simply a follow-up visit on the invitation of Mr. President. Many of you will recall that about eight or nine months ago, we interacted with the president on matters of the nation.
We submitted a memorandum to him and he promised that he was going to look at our submission and he will call us back to further dialogue on the issues we have raised in our submission. Ans this is precisely what transpired today.
“The contention here that there are challenges in the country, especially in the area of security which is the greatest challenge.
What we discussed is that general opinion in the country is that amnesty should be factored into all effort made by government to overcome the security challenges all over the country or in most parts of the North.
Fortunately the president is already thinking hard on it.
And he assured us that there is a special meeting on the matter and that I’m sure that tomorrow something substantial will come out of that meeting”.
Corroborating Abdullahi’s disclosure, information minister, Labarn Maku also said the president has never said no to the issue of amnesty, adding that what the president is saying is that, just like in the case of Niger Delta, some structures and processes have to be in place before the amnesty option is fully explored.
The minister further explained that the insurgents need to be identified and come forward before the dialogue that would lead to the amnesty programme is put in place.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the president intention for convening the meeting was to give a listening ear to the umbrella body of Northern elders to clarify on issues pertaining to clamour for the amnesty for the sect and why he may have been reluctant to consider calls by a section of Nigerians that he should declare amnesty for the sect.
Spiritual leaders from the North, including the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III had appealed to the president to consider granting amnesty to the deadly group, with his position receiving a boost from the Arch Bishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan during the Easter period.
But the president had kept mum over the matter since after his encounter with elders of Borno and Yobe States respectively after a town hall meeting with them during his two weeks working visit to the epicenters of the Boko Haram.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the president may have deemed it necessary to pour out his mind before the NEF , to let them understand his earlier position that members of the insurgents must present themselves before him to enable him know who he is actually dialoguing with, as he was not ready to grant amnesty to ghosts.
The president’s declaration early March this year in Borno and Yobe had elicited a lot of mixed reactions, with most prominent citizens from the Northern region accusing president of insensitivity to the plight of people from the region that have suffered great loss due to the gory and gruesome activities of the sect.
Present at the meeting were leader of the group, Yusuf Maitama Sule, Paulen Tallen, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Kali Gazali, Safiya Mohammed, Solomon Dualong, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, Shehu Malami, John Wash Pam, Lawal Kaita, Bello Kirfi, Paul Unongo, AVM Al-amin Daggash, Sani Zango Daura, N.A. Sheriff, Yahaya Kwande, Saleh Hassan, Muslim Maigari, Bashir Yusuf, Gen.
Paul Tarfa, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Prof Idris Mohammed, Capt Paul Tahal and Capt Bashir Sodangi.