President Goodluck Jonathan has declared amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect.
Minister of Youth Development, Boni Haruna, disclosed this on Thursday at a special event, “A day with young leaders of Nigeria”, to mark the 15th anniversary of the fourth republic.
Jonathan attended the event, which was held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Haruna said: “President Goodluck Jonathan has declared amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect. A 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 into amnesty programme.”
Haruna was once governor of Adamawa, one of the states currently affected by the insurgency.
His pronouncement appears to be a further explanation of the presidential broadcast earlier in the day.
Jonathan had, in his speech, promised to pursue “all options” to end the insurgency ─ announcing that the doors of his government were open to dialogue.
He also spoke about “de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and re-integration into the broader society”.
But, curiously, the president also said he had ordered full military action against the insurgents.
Haruna likened the amnesty offer to the one in the Niger Delta, saying 30,000 youths have benefitted from the programme and have been transformed from militants to “wealth creators, employers of labour and skilled citizens”.
Jonathan, while answering questions from youths, said military alone cannot stop terrorism “or any kind of radicalism”.
He maintained that without local support, terrorism could not succeed in any community.
It is yet unclear how the government wants to go ahead with the amnesty programme.
In the past, Jonathan said the issue of amnesty could not be discussed because the group did not have a “face” ─ unlike the Niger Delta militants whose leaders used to visit former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua at the presidential villa.
However, he set up a presidential committee, headed by Alhaji Taminu Turaki, to explore the possibilities of amnesty in the northern part of the country as a result of a series of violence and insurgency.
Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for virtually all terror attacks in the country and recently kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State.
Meanwhile, gunmen on motorbikes killed at least 32 people in Gurmushi, Borno State, on Thursday, according to a Reuters report.