Did President Goodluck Jonathan offer Boko Haram members amnesty on Democracy Day or not?
This is the subject of a controversy now raging among top officials of the Federal Government.
At the centre of the controversy are the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati and Youth Development Minister Boni Haruna.
Abati said yesterday that there was no truth in Haruna’s statement that President Jonathan had offered amnesty to the insurgents.
Haruna , during a programme ‘A day with young leaders of Nigeria’ to mark the Democracy Day in Abuja on Thursday had announced that the President had offered amnesty to the insurgents in his determination to bring their violent attacks to an end.
He said:”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.”
He asked members of the sect to “embrace the government’s gesture and key into the amnesty programme.”
President Jonathan, who spoke at the occasion after the minister,made no reference to the offer.
Twenty four hours later, Boko Haram, as if rejecting the ‘amnesty’ offer opened fire on three emirs in Borno State, killing one instantly.
And yesterday, Abati declared that the President offered Boko Haram no amnesty. He referred to the President’s Democracy Day broadcast and insisted that nowhere in the speech was ‘amnesty’ used.
He said: “If you read the speech line by line, you will see that it contains the very message that the President wanted to put across and in that speech if you look at it I don’t think the President used amnesty, instead he spoke about those who are willing to renounce terrorism, those who are willing to embrace, opportunities have been created for them through the fact-finding committee, through the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolutions of Conflict in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.
“So I will refer you basically to the speech by the President.”
On the murder of the Emir of Gwoza on Friday, he said: “The President got the news and he was sad about it because what it means is that these terrorists who are threatening peace and stability in Nigeria, are desperate and they continue to show that desperation.
“But as the President made it clear in his democracy day broadcast, that was his main message to Nigerians, that at the end of the day it is the people of Nigeria that will prevail, no matter how desperate terrorists may be and that his government is determined to rid the country of terrorism.
“And the support solidarity the cooperation, the expression of partnership that we are receiving from our neighboring countries, the whole of the West African sub-region, Africa and the entire world shows that this is the battle that the whole world is prepared to fight. So the days of peace as the President said in his speech is assured because this battle will not end until it is won and sustainable development is fully guaranteed.”
Speaking on the ECOWAS meeting that ended in Ghana at the weekend, he said that the summit condemned the of terror in Nigeria.
“Particularly, on the issue of terror, the summit condemned the activities of terror in Nigeria, the summit concluded that any threat of terror in any part of Africa or any part of West Africa in any country at all is a threat to entire sub-region and it is a threat to the continent and it is a threat to the whole of humanity,” Abati said, adding:”So the key message that came out with regards to the situation in Nigeria, was one of solidarity, partnership, cooperation and the heads of governments of west Africa states resolved that they will share intelligence and cooperate in every way possible, because doing so is to ensure stability within the region is to ensure sustainable development within the region and they spoke with one voice in condemning the terrorists activities in Nigeria.”