Abuja, Nigeria - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday declared that the federal government will not grant amnesty to members of the Islamist terror group, Boko Haram.
Religious and traditional leaders from northern Nigeria, where the sect has unleashed its terror activities, has been campaigning for amnesty for the group.
President Jonathan told a town hall meeting during his first visit to Damaturu, the capital of north-eastern Yobe State, which has been worst hit by the sect's killings and bombings, that amnesty would only be possible if the members showed up physically for negotiations.
President Jonathan, responding to demands for amnesty for Boko Haram members by professional groups and stakeholders in the State led by former Minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, said such a gesture would not be possible for now because members of the group had remained 'ghosts'.
According to him: 'You cannot declare amnesty for ghosts. Boko Haram still operates like ghosts. So, you can't talk about amnesty for Boko Haram until you see the people you are discussing with.'
Making a comparison to the amnesty granted to Niger Delta militants, the President said it was possible for the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, to do it because the militants surfaced and came to see the President when invited.
He stated that no leader of Boko Haram has made himself visible for talks to hold.
He said: 'When you call the Niger Delta militants, they will come. But nobody has agreed that he is Boko Haram. No one has come forward. If amnesty can solve the situation, then no problem. But nobody has come forward to make himself visible.'
He added that even the amnesty granted the Niger Delta militants was not handled perfectly as there was a continuous stream of repentant militants after the deadline had lapsed and the programm almost became endless. President Jonathan said such mistakes should not be made with another amnesty programme.
Nevertheless, he assured the people of the state that his inability to visit and share in their grief was not because he cared less for their plight.
Besides, the Yobe visit had been slightly delayed by the change of National Security Adviser (NSA) recently as it had been planned even before the appointment of Sambo Dasuki as NSA.
Speaking earlier during the President's meeting with emirs and traditional rulers from the state, the Yobe state governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, said 209 public schools, vehicles and property worth 2.5 billion naira, and private buildings estimated at 629 million naira had been burnt or destroyed by the insurgents.
The governor said his government had spent about 4.8 billion naira to contain the terrorist insurgency.
He explained that the state government spends an average of 200 million naira monthly to maintain the operations of security personnel fighting the insurgents.
Over 150 patrol vehicles have also been donated to the security personnel, Gaidam said.
'It is in this regard that I make a special appeal to Mr. President to come to our rescue by allocating intervention funds to the state government to enable it to cope with the current security challenges,' the governor said.