Four northern state governors have risen to the challenge thrown to them by some eminent Nigerians to initiate talks with members of the Boko Haram sect to embrace the amnesty offered them by the federal government.
The governors’ action has put an end to the growing fears that the planned dialogue between the federal government and the insurgents to pave the way for the amnesty proper had hit a brick wall.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY learnt from very authoritative sources close to some northern governors yesterday that Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe) and his Borno State counterpart, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, had made a breakthrough in their negotiations with some leaders of the group.
Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, who also spoke on the matter in Minna yesterday, named Gombe State as the fourth state that had opened talks with the insurgents.
One of the sources declared that “the three governors are already speaking with members of the sect. These governors reported to the last National Economic Committee (NEC) meeting the progress they had made in reaching the leadership of this sect and they were mandated to continue”.
Governor Aliyu stated that the amnesty programme was not an automatic solution to the problems of Boko Haram but meaningful dialogue with the sect.
Opening the Northern States Speakers’ Forum conference in Minna, the state capital, the governor explained that the purported rejection of the amnesty offer by Boko Haram was to further widen the scope of discussion and urged Nigerians not to be discouraged by the media report.
Aliyu specifically called on the government of the vulnerable states to intensify contact with the sect so that there would be no hitches when the federal government reels out the amnesty programme.
The governor, who is also the chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, said that the Boko Haram members were not ghosts because the government of Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Yobe had established contacts with them.
“I think when people hear amnesty they think it’s something that is the solution to the security challenges. No! That is the process; it is like saying come and let us discuss; all what you have done, I am not going to look at that. But people think by amnesty the problem is solved, No! ” he stated.
According to him, “Because somebody says they are rejecting amnesty, we are discouraged. No! It is part of the negotiation, raising the antenna so that discussion will take place.”
While commending the Borno State government for raising a committee on the amnesty, he said that it was a good thing also that Bauchi, Yobe and Gombe states had hitherto established contact with the members of the sect. He stated that the effort made by the affected state governments would provide the avenue to properly organise the amnesty so that when the federal government is ready, the states would be ready.