Amnesty for Boko Haram, bandits:  In whose interest?

The call for amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect and bandits is generating ripples. In this analysis, TOPE SUNDAY and SHUAIB ZAINAB LAMORDE (intern) wonder in his interests.

The Northern Development Forum (NDF), a pan-northern group, in a letter addressed to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu urged him to grant amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect and the bandits, with scholarships and pensions.

The group, which issued a two-week ultimatum to Tinubu to grant amnesty to Boko Haram and bandits in the North to foster national inclusivity, premised its demands on what it called the “prosperous life now being lived by ex-agitators in the Niger Delta.”

The threat

The group also warned that it couldn’t guarantee peace in the North if its demands were not met. In a press statement by its spokesperson, Sheriff Abubakar, it state that the only way the North would have respite from incessant attacks from Boko Haram and bandits “is for the Tinubu government to grant amnesty to the rebels just like the late Umar Musa Yar ‘Adua did on assumption of office in 2009 for Niger Delta agitators.”

Discordant tunes

The demands of the group have been greeted with mixed feelings with some Nigerians supporting and others kicking against the amnesty.

For Mr. Alamin Balarabe, Boko Haram members are not deserving of an amnesty. He said they should be properly dealt with according to the law. Balarabe, who spoke with Blueprint Weekend, said: “I see, well l am not much of a political person, but to be honest, Boko Haram members don’t deserve amnesty; they deserve to be caught and punished according to the law.”

But Mr. Babatunde Ayomide on his part, told one of our reporters that amnesty would pave the way for a more united Nigeria, saying: “Granting amnesty to agitators in the North would not only address their grievances but also pave the way for a more united and prosperous Nigeria,” Ayomide said.

Also speaking, a businessman, Salisu Tasiu, to Blueprint Weekend that, “I think it’s important to consider all options when it comes to ending violence.  However, I believe that any decision made should prioritise the safety and well-being of all Nigerians.”

Lawyers’ views

In his view, an Abuja-based Lawyer, Barrister John Opaluwa, said granting amnesty to the members of the Boko Haram sect and the bandits would amount to an injustice, and urged the government not to pardon them.

He said: “It will lead to injustice because there is no reason for granting amnesty to them( Boko Haram and Bandits) because once an offence is committed,  the offender should face the wrath of the law.  So in my opinion, they (the government) should not grant them amnesty.   Government should not pardon them”.

Another lawyer, Chris Nevo, who admitted that the president has the right to grant such amnesty, said each approach must be guided by the existing circumstances at that material time.

He said, “Ordinarily, the president has the right to grant such amnesty and in certain circumstances, nothing is too big for peace. But each approach must be guided by the existing circumstances at that material time. So, each must be treated on its merit. There is no comparison between the Niger Delta and Boko Haram.

“One is motivated by economic factors; the other one has no basis. So, there is nothing whatsoever that you can lay claims to that there is injustice done to their source of economy.  Apart from giving, it’s a religious colouration. We have some of them who will say they are not representing any faith. These are pure criminals and some of them would say what they are doing is because it is the direct instruction from their ‘God.’  And if their actions are the direct instructions for their ‘God,’ on what basis would they be given amnesty?”

In his take, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Federal University, Oye Ekiti, Mr.  Femi Fayomi, said President Tinubu should consider the demands from the group in the interest of peace.

He said: “To achieve peace, stability, and safety of life and properties as well as an improved national image,  President Bola Tinubu should consider conceding to the demands. In the established literature on conflict resolution, the granting of amnesty is well recognized under the economic institutional approach. It is not out of place to accede to the plea provided it will end insecurity and violence in the North-west region of the country.

“The federal government should negotiate and dialogue with the ‘repentant’ Boko Haram bandits because using violence to resolve violence will only result in more violence and collateral damage. Mr. President may offer scholarships and other peaceful incentives geared towards discouraging the return to the dastard act.

“Although, the military can deal with them (bandits) if so directed and given needed Political will. All hands must be on the deck to end this protracted crime at the instance of the bandits.”

Dr.  Rasaq Adisa of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin, in his opinion, said he did not support granting amnesty to Boko Haram,  saying that granting amnesty to them is a sensitive and multifaceted matter with far-reaching implications.

“I don’t support granting amnesty to Boko Haram, either those that repent or are captured. My reasons are because the case of ex-militants in the Niger Delta was different. The ex-militants had clear-cut reasons for their agitation but Boko Haram didn’t have any.  The ex-militants didn’t kill indiscriminately citizens of Nigeria like Boko Haram. Granting amnesty to Boko Haram is a sensitive and multifaceted matter with far-reaching implications.

“The decision to consider amnesty should be carefully evaluated, taking into account the specific circumstances, legal framework, and the potential consequences for the victims, society, and the justice system as a whole.  Granting amnesty to Boko Haram might lead to an increase in violent crimes. Advocates of amnesty for Boko Haram, like Senator Yerima, might argue that it offers an opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society, but what happened to those rehabilitated and integrated in the past?

“However, the concerns should be for the victims and public safety; more so, a certain northern group has opposed the move, which I believe is worth opposing. Above all, the government should rather intensify efforts in exterminating the terrorists instead of leaving room for debate on amnesty. We shouldn’t politicise and ethnicise the government/military handling of terrorists.

‘Amnesty not abused’

A public affairs analyst, Mr. Saheed Olamilekan, who also kicked against granting amnesty to the Boko Haram and bandits, said it has become an abused opportunity in the country and cautioned that there is no comparison with the amnesty granted to the ex-militant from the Niger Delta and the one being canvassed for the members of the Boko Haram sect and the bandits.

Olamilekan said: “Amnesty has become an abused opportunity in Nigeria that every outlawed group now leverages upon to shield them from the wrath of the law. Although we have witnessed the success of amnesty in Nigeria with the implementation of the policy by the administration of late President Musa Yar’aAua, I think giving amnesty to the Niger Delta militant group was the right decision for two major reasons.

“Firstly, the cause of agitation was premised on the marginalisation of their region (Niger Delta) from dividends of the resources extracted from their jurisdiction. These resources (crude oil) are the major source of revenue for the country but also a source of anguish for the Niger Delta dwellers due to massive spillage that made their livelihood difficult. I believe it was right for the government to have granted them amnesty and also negotiated peace which has been enduring to date.

“Secondly, the amnesty programme for the Niger Delta militants aided peace in the region with their leaders well engaged in the protection of government infrastructures located in the region. From these two positions, it is safe to say the amnesty policy was in the interest of national unity and economic benefits of Nigeria and by extension a policy of national interest.

“In contrast to this analogy is the demand for amnesty for a proscribed terrorist group that is regarded as one of the deadliest on planet Earth.

Terrorism is an ideologically based crime that appeals to a radical cognition that can be difficult to rehabilitate. This implies that extremist movements like terrorists should not be hurried and reintegrated back into society without deep ideological reorientation. The government may end up financing terrorism through amnesty granted to supposed terrorists.

“Also learning from the previous amnesty, the programme further increased insecurity within the region with new groups coming out to demand amnesty this can lead to the proliferation of criminal groups. The military has recorded substantial successes from their recent engagements coupled with the reshuffle of hierarchy within the military ranks; I believe the end to insurgency in Nigeria is near rather than resuscitating them with amnesty.”

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