By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
There are strong indications that the federal government may have offered Amnesty to members of the Boko Haram insurgents as part of options on the table for the release of the abducted Chibok school girls.
Though, details of the deal is still sketchy, the Minister of Youth Development, Boni Haruna, dropped the hint Thursday when he announced what looks like ‘Democracy Day gift’ at a special event organised to mark the 2014 Democracy Day at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
The event, which was attended by the First Lady, Patience, Vice President Namadi Sambo, Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, former Head of the Interim Governemnt, Ernest Shonekan, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and Gen. Oladipo Diya, was tagged ‘A Day With Young Leaders of Nigeria’.
While giving an overview of the position of Nigerian youths in the Jonathan administration’s transformation agenda, the Minister enjoined the sect members to “key into the amnesty programme.”
Haruna, however assured the insurgents that several programmes would be lined up to fully reintegrate the members into the society.
He also reminded them that similar gesture to the Niger Delta militants has been largely successful with over 30, 000 beneficiaries so far.
The Minister therefore, urged them to embrace peace and surrender their arms and ammunitions.
“President Goodluck Jonathan has also declared amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect.
“Series of integration programmes have been lined up for the members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.
“Let me use this opportunity on behalf of the Federal Government, to call on the members of the Boko Haram sect to embrace the government’s gesture and key to amnesty programme,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, the president said on Thursday he had ordered “a full-scale operation” against Boko Haram Islamist militants and sought to reassure parents of 219 schoolgirls being held by the group that their children would be freed.
Speaking on Nigeria’s Democracy Day, Goodluck Jonathan said he had authorized security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that Boko Haram, which operates in the country’s northeast, is defeated.
He said, “It is now 45 days since the horrifying abduction of the college girls of Chibok. I share the deep pain and anxiety of their parents and guardians and I assure them once again that government will continue to do everything possible to bring our daughters home.
I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism. The unity and stability of our country and the protection of lives and property are non-negotiable.
“I have instructed our security forces to launch a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil.
“I have also authorized the security forces to use any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done. I assure you that Nigeria will be safe again, and that these thugs will be driven away – it will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.
“Despite the challenges we face, we must commend our security forces. We must not forget their gallantry and successes in liberating nations and in peacekeeping, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and many places in Africa and beyond. Our forces have paid the supreme price in several places at several times.
“Today, they face a different challenge, an unconventional war by terrorists. They are adjusting and are being equipped to tackle the new menace of terrorism. We must show confidence in their ability. I have no doubt that, with the support of Nigerians, our neighbours and the international community, we will reinforce our defence, free our girls and rid Nigeria of terrorists.
“For our citizens who have joined hands with Al Qaeda and international terrorists in the misguided belief that violence can possibly solve their problems, our doors remained open to them for dialogue and reconciliation, if they renounce terrorism and embrace peace”.
Jonathan however sues for peace among Nigerians as a panacea for promoting peace and unity in the country, as he call for religious tolerance and the closing of ranks between the Muslim and Christian groups in the country.
In a related development, gunmen mounted on motorbikes killed at least 32 in the northeastern Nigerian village of Gurmushi, police source told Reuters on Thursday.