The proscription of Boko Haram and Ansaru will in no way halt the work of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North.
This is just as the National Assembly and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Wednesday threw their weight behind the proscription of the two terrorist groups.
Speaking on the impact of the Proscriptive Order, the Minister of Special Duties, who also doubles as chairman of the committee, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, in response to a text message from THISDAY Wednesday, said: “I do not think that these developments would derail the peace process or negatively affect the work of the committee. I am even in Jos now on the committee work.”
President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday outlawed the groups via the instrumentality of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Proscription Order) Notice 2013, which was gazetted and subsequently approved by him.
Also corroborating the minister’s statement, a source close to the committee said the committee’s assignment would not be affected by the outlawing of the two groups, both of which have been subdued as a result of the emergency rule imposed on three North-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
He said on the condition of anonymity that the federal government’s proscription of Boko Haram and Ansaru and the criminalisation of the acts of their collaborators, like the declaration of the state of emergency, was just another track, in a multi-dimensional approach by the government to tackle the problem of insurgency unleashed on some parts of the nation by sectarians.
“Everywhere in the world where similar crises have been part of national life, the government of the day has employed both carrots and stick to deal with the situation. The situation is not different in Nigeria.
“What the current administration is doing is to ensure that the appropriate measures are taken to give it the upper hand in handling the problem of insecurity occasioned by the escalation of violence by these groups and their affiliates,” the source explained.
He added: “the government of United Kingdom did the same thing with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Egyptian government did same with the Muslim Brotherhood, Afghanistan and Pakistan did the same with the Taliban, just as the Sri Lankan government did with the Tamil Tigers rebels.
“Closer home, the defunct government of General Yakubu Gowon did the same with Biafran rebels. You recall that the civil war was still raging, the blockade and all, when the government then initiated peaceful means of ending the fratricidal conflict.”
On whether the proscription will not affect the gradual release of the wives, children and some category of the Boko Haram adherents in protective custody, who are considered less harmful, the source said it would not.
He, however, said it would be unconstitutional for the Proscription Order to be retroactive. “It will be unconstitutional for the Proscription Order to halt the gradual release of those that the committee has screened and found suitable to be freed,” he said.
He reasoned that even in times of war women, children and the vulnerable are not subjected to the vagaries of brutal engagements.
“So, it is our belief that the government will not go back on its words regarding the interim recommendation that some category of detainees in detention as a result of their association with the Boko Haram group should be released,” the source pointed out, adding that already, more than 50 of such people have regained their freedom.
He also stated that the terms of reference of the committee include dialogue with victims of the violence which began in 2009.
The committee was equally saddled with the responsibility of rehabilitating the victims of the violence.
“If you look at that aspect alone, you will know that the committee is still functioning and will not cease to do so until it submits its final report,” the source said.
However, as members of the committee remained confident in its viability, the National Assembly and APGA gave the thumbs up for the proscription of Boko Haram and Ansaru on Tuesday by the president, stating that it was a decision that came rather late.
According to Senate’s spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who said the Senate would not hesitate to support any move aimed at guaranteeing peace and safety in the land, the move was a very welcome development that should secure the backing of any right-thinking Nigerian.
“The Senate supports it. We even felt it was coming a little bit late. We welcome it. We support every move that is meant to ensure that Nigeria is brought to peace and safety,” he said.
Abaribe said the proscription did not in any way contradict the ongoing moves to grant amnesty to members of the terrorist groups, explaining that the amnesty arrangement was not automatic for members of the sects.
Further, he explained that the amnesty arrangement would only be extended to members of the sect who have renounced terrorism, insisting that the proscription would not in any way alter the credibility of the proposed amnesty programme by the federal government.
The senator also welcomed the recent $7 million bounty placed on the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, by the United States on Monday, arguing that the US reserved the right to take any step it deemed fit in its efforts to combat global terrorism.
He also noted that Nigeria had no right to question the decision of the US to undertake any move that was meant to secure its interest across the world.
“The US has the right to take any step it wants in combating global terrorism. It is not for us to question why it decides to take any step in securing its interests worldwide,” Abaribe added.
Also speaking on the development, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, described the decision as a step in the right direction and an action that was long overdue.
“We think that it should have even come long before now, but it is better late than never. We strongly support it and we hope that the sects will turn a new leaf and allow peace to reign.
“Anything that will bring genuine peace and promote good neighbourliness in Nigeria should be encouraged,” Mohammed said.
Chairman, House Committee on Labour and Productivity, Hon. Essien Ayi (PDP/Cross River), said the decision was also right and should have been taken long ago.
According to Ayi, the government was right because the proscribed sects had over time become a threat to peace.
“You are all aware of the activities of these groups, so if government decides to proscribe them, it is a welcome development, especially if that would curb their violence across the country,” he said.
Similarly, Hon. Yusuf Manu Swa (PDP/Gombe) said the proscription was a good decision in the effort of government to stamp out terrorism in the North-eastern region of the country.
“Whatever decision government takes as long as it is in the interest of the public, it is a step in the right direction.
“Our belief is that these insurgents and terrorist groups are not supposed to be part of society. There are several other organisations in the country but government chose to proscribe these two because it is convinced that their activities have not been for the good of the country,” Swa said.
However, the decision provoked a different reaction from another lawmaker – Chairman, House Committee on Internal Security, Hon. Aliyu Ibrahim Geby – who described the decision as not far reaching enough.
According to Geby, the federal government should also proscribe all religious or ethnic militia groups in the country.
He said groups such as Ombatse in Nasarawa State, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), and Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) among others, should be proscribed as well and the groups asked to surrender their arms and ammunition to the government.
According to him, all ethnic militia groups should be given a time frame of about one month to disarm or else be crushed by the security forces.
Geby, however, faulted the timing of the latest action, coming about the same time the US had placed a bounty of $7million on Shekau.
On its part, APGA described the president’s proscription of the terrorist groups as bold, decisive and courageous.
The Senior Media Assistant to the National Chairman of the party, Mr. Francis Edeh, said in a statement that the party believes it is only such decisive action that could save the country from this scourge.
“We affirm that the president’s action which is pursuant to Section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 (as amended), was not only timely, it was in tandem with efforts of the federal government to checkmate the horror and unmitigated calamities which these groups and their collaborators have unleashed on innocent Nigerians,” the party said.
It added: “The action by Mr. President has also vindicate our earlier position on this matter that no government anywhere in the world would fight terrorism with kid’s gloves and succeed; that governments all over the world, given the international collaboration and dimension of terrorism, should close ranks and share intelligence and strategy in the fight against this hydra-headed monster that has afflicted the world.
“We also wish to thank the government of the United States of America for its intervention in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria.
“We enjoin politicians to imbibe issue based politics and eschew politics of bitterness that has impeded our frail democracy. The long-suffering masses deserve the dividends of democracy not carnage.”
But in a slight deviation from the positions taken by the National Assembly and APGA, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) yesterday warned the federal government against taking any measure that could impede the freedom and fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
The secretary of the forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who spoke to THISDAY on the phone, said though members of his group were yet to get details of the new security action, they were averse to anything that is not within the ambit of the law.
“Well, it is important is that whatever action is taken should be within the ambit of the law, without the breach of human rights. As a layman, I would like my freedom and that of others not to be breached by any order.
“However, because the details of the proscription order are not yet out, it will be difficult to comment objectively on it. When it is made public, the opinion of people that probably are more knowledgeable in the law and its application will be sought so as to put things in the right perspective,” he said.
On the meeting of the forum earlier scheduled to take place today in Abuja, Abdullahi said it had been postponed till Tuesday, next week.
He did not give reasons for the sudden cancellation but said the elders would use the meeting to address some of the issues affecting the north and the country in general.
Just like NEF, the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Alhaji Lai Muhammed, said the party would have to study the Proscription Order carefully before taking a position on it.
“We are still studying the proscription order document so as to understand the implications properly before offering our response,” he said.
He said the party was equally looking at the latest intervention of the US government.
Meanwhile, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) described the proscription order as a belated action and would make no difference in the lacklustre approach so far adopted by government in dealing with the security challenges in the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, who spoke to THISDAY, said the party did not understand why the president had to wait till the US placed a bounty on the Boko Haram leader before deciding to proscribe the terrorist organisation.
“We need to ask ourselves, is it because the United States of America has placed the Boko Haram leaders on its wanted list that President Goodluck Jonathan realised that it was time to proscribe the sect?
“Do they need US to prod them before they take the action? Boko Haram has been terrorising the country for some years now and the federal government did not find it necessary to do something decisively to end its intransigence.
“How come it is now that the US had placed a bounty for its leader’s arrest that the Jonathan administration is waking up to ban it? This is a sign of a clueless government.
“Of what effect is the proscription? Is Boko Haram saying they were operating as a legal organisation? Have they ever approached the Corporate Affairs Commission for registration so as to necessitate the latest proscription order?” the party asked.