• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Boko Haram and amnesty: Who giveth? Who taketh?


 Indeed, as Pat Utomi had warned, there are clear evidences that we are already trivialising amnesty. In Abia State, some 5,000 repentant criminals have demanded amnesty and have petitioned the National Assembly to that effect [Punch, 16/4/13, p.9]. Bayelsa is considering amnesty for 7,000 [repentant?] cultists in the state. In Ogun State, the Agbado-Ifo LGA has granted amnesty to owners of illegal structures, giving them 6 months to regularise their documents/buildings under the Agbado global amnesty programme [National Mirror, 22/4/13, p.11]. Meanwhile, the O’odua Youths Organisation has demanded amnesty for Yoruba youths since amnesty has become ‘a means through which the state expends huge funds in reforming angry and restive youths’ [Punch, 16/4/13, p.13]. And last week, a student whose script was not graded because she failed the class attendance benchmark demanded an amnesty!

Dati Ahmed, who opted out of the amnesty committee, saw the amnesty programme as nothing more than a kangaroo arrangement to appease some interests and complains about spurious ceasefires and dialogues in the past under dubious characters with the aim of duping the treasury [Guardian, 20/4/13]. And as Mohammed Marwan accepted the amnesty on behalf of his BH faction and claimed to have made conciliatory gestures, the deadly attacks increased and were complicated by the Alakyo massacre when some ‘traditional prayer warriors’ put the security forces to the sword. Before long, the work of the amnesty committee would be expanded to include them, even when they are not convinced that they are wrong and have not begged for amnesty. And while the committee was busy with its work, the president declared a civilianised emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa; an emergency rule in which the political structures are still in place. Thus we have an odd admixture of amnesty committee, increased attack, the Alakyo axis, and emergency rule all boiling in the same pot. This will produce nothing but confusion! And the confusion has become confounding because the president, who swore to hunt down and fish out the insurgents and their supporters and bring them to justice ‘whoever they may be and wherever they may go…no matter what it takes’, has ordered the release of some BH detainees. So while the soldiers are fighting the insurgents [it is a full-scale war!] and capturing some of them, those already arrested are being told to go and sin no more!

The BH uprising has consumed about 4,000 Nigerians since 2009 and, according to UNCTAD, led to an economic loss of about N1.3trn. They target all the pillars of our very survival as a community: security, economy, education and religion. They have made police stations a no-go area and made policemen insecure thereby putting our society on the path of anarchy. They are destroying markets which are the centres of commercial activities. They attack banks, thereby crippling the very heart of our economy. They have not spared our universities. Already in Borno State, some 10,000 pupils are out of school [A.A Lamido: “Letter to northern governors” in Friday Worship, Guardian, 19/4/13]. The president informs us that as they pursue their fanatical agenda of mayhem, mass murder, division and separatism, they have taken over some parts of Nigeria, hoisting strange flags, all of which amount to a declaration of war.

Even then, the question ‘which BH are we discussing – the genuine, political, criminal, international, or conspiratorial BH?’ is still germane.Incidentally, the ‘genuine’ BH is political, criminal and international. They want to enthrone a particular form of government and they want to frighten everybody so that by next election, only their anointed dare step forward. They raid banks for funds and armouries for arms. The French family kidnapped in Cameroon was quarantined in Nigeria and almost N500m exchanged hands to secure their release. So, you cannot delineate the criminal, international and political BH! Even the causes of the BH phenomenon have become contentious. Sanusi Lamido and some Northern elites insist it is due to the derivation principle and resultant unequal distribution of wealth and poverty, but Bishop Kukah reminds them that Sokoto has been adjudged the poorest state in Nigeria and there is no BH thither! And even while they have declared that they want to ‘Sharianise’ the north by fire and by force, the same Kukah has argued that it makes little sense for one to hope to conquer others by fighting inside his own house [Guardian, 12/5/12, p.53]. The Emir of Ankah also blamed the politicians and the elites for igniting the BH inferno.

So, what do we make of this BH amnesty? What has changed since the president’s visit and tough talk in Maiduguri and Damaturu to warrant his sudden u-turn? Are they no longer ghosts or is it because the attacks have increased and our security services are overwhelmed? How can you officially forgive people who believe they are doing the best for God and humanity? As Sam Omatseye argued, because they [BH] believe they are God’s army and are thus dispensing divine justice with God’s backing, which human can challenge them? Furthermore, because we are dealing with matters of faith, evidence is of no relevance since faith is enough proof [‘From amnesty to paralysis’, 15/4/13]. How do we manage the consequential poison of mixing the toxins of politics and faith? And those who compare Niger Delta agitations with BH are just comparing grapes with apples. Emmanuel Alamu of the Middle Belt Dialogue Group sees such comparison as either mischievous or just cheap blackmail. [Guardian, 14/4/13, p.1]. In any case, the Niger Delta insurgency is not yet over as indicated by the murder of 12 policemen early April by militants, whether they are disgruntled or not.

The core of the issue, as I argued three weeks ago, is that amnesty has become one huge industry. Some people have seen amnesty as another window for sharing the national cake and managing big budgets. It appears that the president has been blackmailed or boxed into a corner over the issue. It is all politics and some people also want to ‘chop’. For the sake of north-south politics, let’s try the amnesty, but it won’t work and won’t bring any peace; at least, not as long as the BH insists on Sharia by fire by force! In any case, militarised agitators that can strike whenever, wherever and however they wish are not likely to be excited about amnesty.

And as that is going on, my MASSOB brothers from the South-East are facing all sorts of harassment and intimidation by uniformed men just because they hoist flags! Well, I am informing the police that all 36 kindreds in my town Igbo-Ukwu have flags, and so do companies, schools and churches. They should arrest all of them and charge them for treason. And as they are doing that, BH will be advancing further and probably setting up their administration in more parts of the country. As Bayo Olopohunda wondered, it is probably right and proper to offer treason-trials to MASSOB and amnesty to BH [Punch, 2/5/13, p.22] while awarding multi-billion naira contracts to Niger-Delta activists and OPC operatives!



Muo is a lecturer and management consultant in the department of business administration, Olabisi Onabanjo 

University, Ago-Iwoye

[email protected]


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