Undeterred by Boko Haram’s rejection of its amnesty offer, the Federal Government is reaching out to some elders and Islamic clerics in Borno, Yobe and Kano states to prevail on Boko Haram to embrace the proposal.
The government is also considering talks with some Boko Haram leader in detention to facilitate contact with the sect.
The options came even as the Northern Youth Forum (NYF) urged the sect to embrace the planned amnesty.
Also at the weekend Bauchi State Governor Isa Yuguda expressed optimism that the sect would embrace dialogue and accept amnesty.
Besides, Yuguda’s counterparts in Borno (Kashim Shettima), Yobe (Ibrahim Gaidam) and Kano (Rabiu Kwankwaso) have begun moves to restore peace to the North.
The Federal Government’s challenge is how to reach out to the sect’s leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau.
The government, it was learnt, is already seeking the help of some elders and clerics in Borno, Yobe and Kano.
A source said: “These leaders and clerics are not members of the sect but they are respected by Boko Haram. They also know how they get in touch with them. The mandate given to these leaders and clerics is based on why the amnesty should be in place.
“I won’t give you the names of these intermediary leaders to avoid scuttling the process. But we believe that once amnesty is in place, the sect’s leaders will have the freedom to come out for dialogue.”
Asked why the government is going to this length, the source replied: “The rejection of amnesty offer by Boko Haram is suspected to be politically motivated. We are, therefore, trying to give it a political solution by enlisting the right people to assist in persuading Boko Haram.”
A source said locating Shekau remained the main issue.
He added: “It has been difficult to locate the whereabouts of Shekau since the operation in Mali made the sect leaders to adopt a make-shift lifestyle.
“No one can say whether they are in Nigeria or Mali or any of the neighboring countries.
“This is why the government is adamant on a proclamation of amnesty in order to serve as a guarantee that the sect’s leaders are protected from harassment if they come out for dialogue.”
Shettima is believed to have reached out to some of the detained leaders and members of Boko Haram. The governor’s talks with the sect were still ongoing as at press time last night.
The governor is said to have visited sect members in detention at Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri. He also visited some detainees at the Police Crack Team.
“At the detention camps, he was not too pleased with the condition of some of the detainees and he made money available to buy blankets and basic provisions for them. He had one-on-one interaction with many of the sect leaders and members on the way out,” a source said, adding that the governor persuaded some of them to assist the government in resolving the logjam.
“Already, this idea is being sold to the Federal Government to adopt. The proposed amnesty committee should meet these high-profile detainees and build confidence in them to enable them to reach out to Boko Haram leaders to have faith in the amnesty programme,” said the source.
The NYF appeal was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of its bi-monthly meeting which ended at the weekend in Gombe.
The Forum also praised the government on the proposed amnesty, believing it would restore lasting peace and stability to the North.
It, therefore, “urged the Federal Government and other stakeholders (Northern Elders Forum) to involve the youths in the process of the amnesty programme”.
The Forum ascribed the security challenge bedeviling the country to poverty, unemployment, lack of proper educational policies and loss of moral values in the society.
Yuguda is confident that Boko Haram members would accept amnesty and embrace dialogue.
Yuguda drew a line between the “real Boko Haram” protesting against poverty and misery and the “political and criminal Boko Haram”, which is a tool in the hands of “desperate, “unscrupulous and “unpatriotic” politicians to destabilise the country.
The governor acknowledged that poverty, unemployment and lack of social infrastructure may have instigated anger on some elements in the North. But he disagreed with those fuelling the violence for political reasons, stressing that these agents of violence are “criminals, armed robbers and killer Boko Haram”.
Yuguda spoke with reporters at the weekend on the state of the nation in Lagos.
The governor denied the allegation that he was interested in the Vice Presidency in 2015. He pledged his loyalty to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Vice President Namadi Sambo.
If the Northern Speakers’ Forum (NSF) has its way, all 19 governors in the North would be included in the amnesty committee raised by the federal government to to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Forum rose from a conference of the 19 Northern Speakers in Minna, the Niger State capital and commended the government on the steps it took towards negotiating and possible acceptance of the amnesty.
In a communique signed by Mr. Stephen Onmeje, the speakers urged the various state governments, elders and traditional rulers from the region to ensure that peace return to the region in the overall interest of North’s development.