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Amnesty not the solution to Boko Haram insurgency

Amnesty not the solution to Boko Haram insurgency
March 25
07:11 2018

BY SANI MUHAMMAD UZAIRU

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While further efforts are being made to secure the release of every abducted citizen in Nigeria, government is ever ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by members of the Boko Haram group, who show strong commitment in this regard. We are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant members into the larger society – President Muhammadu Buhari, 23rd March, 2019.

Nigeria, the most populous African nation, is encountering a monumental crisis in its nation-building trajectory. It is appalling that, today, no individual, group or even political authority enjoys universally perceived legitimacy or acceptance across the country’s main fault lines. If this trend continues, there is a high risk of increasing number of  groups sabotaging or even attacking the Nigerian state.

This can be evinced from the nature of remarks President Buhari’s statement  in the penultimate paragraph had elicited. Since the president verbalized, opinions have seemingly been polarised  on the justification and legitimacy  of amnesty for Boko Haram. Even though this polarization can be rationalized when considered from varied angles, it is lamentable  that most of these viewpoints stated are either tinged with emotions or sentiments.

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Little wonder I came under intense assailment in the past couple of weeks, over my views on national issues from people of my ethno-religious persuasion, and I won’t be shocked to receive even more chastisement with this epistle. Be that as it may, I’m not deterred because acquiescence  to primordial sentiments and trivialities is a crime against my intellect.

Terrorism by any  group and under whatever guise, be it religious,  resource control, political or any other interest,  that leads to killing of innocent lives and destruction of properties is diabolic and utterly condemnable; and, it must never be treated with kid gloves let alone rewarding the terrorists who have caused unfathomable torment to the state.

The Boko Haram terrorism is, to a large extent, premised on ideology. There is the need for our president to comprehend  this. Once he does, it will be manifestly clear to him that it is not a phenomenon that will be easily reduced or even curtailed with the granting of the Nigeria-type amnesty.

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Amnesty per se is not a bad thing, but the quintessential Nigerian amnesty  programme, a cosmetic exercise, that does not take into account the betterment of the lives of people in the terrorism ravaged areas is bound to not only fail but also return to haunt the country, even strongly.

In any case, even the Niger Delta amnesty programme – that proponents of amnesty for Boko Haram use as reference point – initially appeared like an novel solution but events in its aftermath have been revealing. That it should never have happened. Government extended amnesty to militants and yet overlooked the majority of the people wallowing in poverty. In truth, the faces of the criminals did change but the crimes remained unabated. Deadly terrorist like the Avengers sprung up, and to this day the issues of oil bunkering and pipelines vandalism continues, despite the billions of dollars expended on amnesty.

Poverty, deprivation, inequity  and unemployment in Boko Haram ravaged states remain the highest in the country. So, when thinking solutions, we must holistically consider the entire society not just those who have taken guns against the state. If we appease those with the guns today, the same seeds that birth them will return to roost again, and our national domino of violence keeps resurfacing like a recurring decimal.

It is somewhat understandable to accept any solution that would seemingly bring finality to these killings and abductions  by Boko Haram but, in doing so, we must be discreet enough to proffer solutions that last and not end up buying a pig in a pork.

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Because granting unconditional amnesty to Boko Haram is to kowtow to some of their whims and caprices including introducing strict ISIS style doctrines  in a secular Nigeria. To negotiate with Boko Haram and grant them amnesty can be equated to the United States interfacing with the late Osama-bin laden in order to dissuade him on religious jingoism and hatred of all things western. It just won’t work!

In the short to medium term however, government may consider the following measures to contain Boko Haram’s atrocities:

First, empowering the state governments in the north to be in the vanguard and serve as the faces of the fight against Boko Haram. This could, if anything, address the conspiracy theory in the country that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is funding Boko Haram to discredit the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It is essential to underscore that these conspiracy theories have made it arduous to mobilize collective anger against Boko Haram.

Second, ensuring that funds voted for the North East Development Commission are properly utilized to address the huge problems in the north, including the challenges of poverty, radical Islam and illiteracy. This should also involve a concerted effort towards the  provision of quality education, building local capacity and tackling unemployment. This when followed through will be an important way of enlisting the confidence of  the natives and pacifying local grievances which feeds and waters the Boko Haram madness.

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Third, carrying out fair and speedy trials, under Islamic jurisprudence of those discovered to be Boko Haram activists or financials, and allowing  the law take its full course. Having suspects stand for trial for months or even years engenders suspicion, and umpteen times might end up mobilizing sympathy for them. It may also be strategic to conduct trial of the suspects under Islamic laws since the sect members have clearly renounced Western civilization and its jurisprudence. Whatever punishment is meted to them under Islamic jurisprudence may not be viewed as integral aspect of Western conspiracy against Islam.

In my parting shot, I will opine that there is no quick fix to defeating terrorism anywhere on the globe as the experiences in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen and other nations have demonstrated. However, with the above recommended short to medium term strategies pursued vigorously and adequate political will, Boko Harm’s terrorism can be drastically contained, and the devilish groups ultimately  neutralized.

Uzairu is a political commentator and can be reached via [email protected] and on twitter: @enigmatic_sani

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