Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Presidential panel urges dialogue with Boko Haram,wants sect to disarm .

27 September 2011

THE committee on the security challenges posed by the Boko Haram crisis yesterday submitted its report to President Goodluck Jonathan, recommending that the Federal Government should fundamentally consider the option of dialogue and negotiation to contain the Islamic sect’s insurgency.

But it said that the dialogue should be contingent upon “the renunciation of all forms of violence and surrender of arms” by the group.

According to the presidential committee, headed by Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, rehabilitation programme on the side of government should follow this. It also recommended that government at all levels should immediately initiate and design appropriate programmes to address the issue of unemployment in the zone.

The committee members are Abdullahi Shehu (Secretary), Senator Mohammed Ndume, Mr. Joe Gadzama (SAN) and Col. Musa Shehu (rtd).

Others are Senator Bala Mohammed, the FCTA Minister, Dr. Bello Mohammed, the Minister of Defence and Mr. Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity.

Blaming security lapses, inter-service rivalry and lack of collaboration for the outbreak of the crisis, the Committee, at the presentation of the final report at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, also blamed high level of poverty, unemployment and other social ills for the outbreak and sustenance of the insurgency.

It regretted that there is a general failure of effective and coordinated intelligence gathering and its deployment to forestall events.

Vice President Namadi Sambo, who received the report on behalf of Jonathan, pledged prompt action on its recommendations.

The committee’s recommendations as contained in the executive summary include that:

“The Federal Government should fundamentally, consider the option of dialogue and negotiation which should be contingent upon the renunciation of all forms of violence and surrender of arms to be followed by a rehabilitation programme on the side of government.

“The Federal Government should create an informal forum at the highest level, where Mr. President will discuss national security issues with governors and other stakeholders from time to time. Again, there is an urgent need for arranging an informal forum where Mr. President will grant audience to each state governor on one-to-one basis where issues on security, could be addressed.

“The Federal Government should diversify and strengthen its means of creating avenues for international intelligence sharing and inter-agency cooperation through diplomatic channels/pacts.

“The Federal Government and Borno State government should ensure that human and organisation victims most especially, churches and mosques including schools, which were destroyed during the religious crisis in the past and even in the recent past, should be compensated monetarily and by way of resuscitating and reconstructing their properties. Survivors of the deceased victims should be compensated appropriately.

“The Federal Government is urged to consider widely, the scope of the present assignment to cover all security challenges facing the nation. This view is well informed by comments, suggestions and counsel made by many concerned individuals to the committee in the course of interactions with stakeholders including the executive governors of Borno, Bauchi, Kano, Niger and Sokoto.

“Therefore, government may consider constituting another committee with wider power and with an increased membership to handle the assignment within a reasonable timeframe but not weeks as was given to this committee. The committees, power should include dialogue and negotiation with the Jaamatus Ahlus Sunnah Lid Daawatis Wal Jihad (Boko Haram) who have to our understanding, indicated their desire to have the Sultan of Sokoto or his representatives as well as the Emir of Bauchi and Sheik Abubakar Gero Argungu as part of any such new committee.”

The Committee, which was inaugurated in August 2011,  said that in the course of its investigations and interactions with stakeholders, the cause of the present security challenges are many and these have been adequately covered in its final report.

They include the following:

• High level of poverty and illiteracy existing in the North-East zone;

• Massive unemployment of youths, both skilled and unskilled;

• Existence of private militias that were established, funded and used by politicians and individuals and then dumped after having been trained to handle arms;

• Presence of large number of almajiris who together with those mentioned above could easily be used as canon-fodders to ignite and sustain crisis;

• Influx of illegal aliens resulting from porous and unmanned borders coupled with provocative and inciting preaching by some religious leaders;

• Extra-judicial killing of the sect leader Mohammed Yusuf and some members of the sect by security agents; and

• Weak governance and failure to deliver services in the wake of huge resources accruing to state and local governments.

In arriving at its report, the Committee said it visited all the states in the North East geo-political zone and held interactive sessions with governors, traditional rulers, community, religious and opinion leaders on the immediate and remote causes of the Boko Haram siege. It also visited Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Niger and the Federal Capital Territory.

On the general indictment of security forces, the Committee noted that “there are palpable operational lapses, services rivalry, under-funding, under-equipment and lack of collaboration. In addition, governments have failed to deliver justice and bring immediate relief to victims of the crisis. Again, Mr. President, the inability of the Federal Government to complete useful/crucial projects that have high development impacts has also not been helpful.

“In our interaction with the state governors, chief security agencies, traditional rulers and other stakeholders, all advised for urgent steps to be taken to provide measures for economic empowerment of the teeming unemployed youths in the north-east zone. The committee therefore recommends that government at all levels should, as a matter of priority initiate and design appropriate programmes to address the issue of unemployment in the zone. The committee is of the view that the ongoing trial of police officers linked to the murder of Mohammed Yusuf, the sect leader and some of his followers should be expedited and publicized to convince the public of government’s sincerity on the matter.

“The committee discovered that there was a general failure of effective and coordinated intelligence gathering and its deployment to forestall events with undesirable consequences. In this direction, there is no high-level security network/forum (outside the statutory national security institutions) that will enable an informal meeting between Mr. President and the governors as well as other top-level security stakeholders. The lack of an institutional structure/arrangement to primarily cater for inter-religious affairs to promote harmonious coexistence confounded the problems.

“Most importantly, the committee was inundated with series of complaints that the increasing level of insecurity in the country was amongst other reasons due to the failure of governments to implement reports of various committees that were constituted and had submitted useful recommendations in the past.

“Our final report which is being presented to Mr. president this afternoon (yesterday), embodies an urgent strategy for combating the identified security challenges and offers a roadmap for the restoration of public confidence in the ability of government to protect lives and property as well as reassure investors of their security. It is our conviction that the Federal Government and all the affected states should take steps to consider and implement the recommendations in the final report in order to effectively address the issues at stake. Mr. President sir, it is the strong belief of the committee that once these steps are taken, it would enable the government and the entire nation to fight insurgency, terrorism, and the new disturbing phenomenon of suicide bombing in order to give a renewed drive to the transformation agenda for the overall political and socio-economic development of the country.”

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