Security - The spiritual head of Nigerian Muslims has called on the federal government to grant amnesty to all members of the Islamic sect Boko Haram so they can stop the violence that has claimed over 3,000 lives since 2009.
“We want to use this opportunity to call on the government, especially Mr President, to see how he can declare total amnesty for all combatants (Boko Haram) without thinking twice. That will make any other person who picks up arms to be termed a criminal,' the local media Wednesday quoted the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, to have said.
“If amnesty is declared, it will give so many of those young men who have been running and hiding to embrace that amnesty. Some of them have already come out, because we have read in the papers that some have already come out.
“Even if it is only one person that denounces terrorism, it is the duty of the government to accept that person and see how he can be used to reach out to others. It is left for the government to use that person, evaluate him and see whether he is genuine or fake,' said the Sultan, who is also the President-General of Ja’matu Nasril Islam, JNI, the umbrella association of all Muslim unions in the country.
PANA reports that the call may have been influenced by a government amnesty for militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta in 2009, which has restored peace to the once-volatile oil region.
Meanwhile, the umbrella Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has flayed the call by the Sultan, saying it was an indication that he knows the members of Boko Haram.
'Maybe the Sultan knows the Boko Haram members. If he is seeking amnesty for them, it shows that he knows them, because you cannot call for amnesty for people you don’t know,” the General Secretary of CAN, Dr. Musa Asake, said in an interview published by the private Punch newspaper Wednesday.
'All we have been asking is: who are these people? They are faceless people but if someone is calling for amnesty for them, it shows that such a person knows them and if he knows them and calling for amnesty, then there is a problem,' he said.
President Goodluck Jonathan has described the Boko Haram sect as a 'faceless' organisation and asked the members to come out openly if they want the government to dialogue with them.
Boko Haram, which means Western education is forbidden, launched its violent campaign in 2009, following the extra-judicial killing of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf.
In addition to avenging its leader's death, the group said it is fighting to establish an Islamic state in secular Nigeria.