NEGOTIATORS acting on behalf of Nigeria's federal government have begun talking to 104 Boko Haram suspects held in Lagos prisons as part of plans to convince the terrorist sect to abandon violence and agree to an amnesty programme.
In April this year, President Goodluck Jonathan instituted an amnesty committee called the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North to dialogue with Boko Haram. However, terrorist sect dismissed the programme, saying it is the government that should be asking it for forgiveness, stalling the peace plan.
As a result, the government declared a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe State and a bitter military battle has ensued between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military since. With Boko Haram now on the run after being driven out of many of their strongholds, it appears that the government now believes it can get the sect to return to the negotiating table.
Yesterday, Kabiru Tanimu, Nigeria's minister of special duties who chairs the amnesty committee, met with 104 Boko Haram detainees in Lagos to see it they could discuss a way forward. After the meeting, Alhaji Taminu said he is optimistic that the dialogue will lead to a resolution of the crisis.
He added: "We came basically to have interaction with people detained in connection with acts relating to terrorism. We have interacted and spoken to them and they responded very sincerely and frankly and I think I can say that we are well informed about most of the things they are interested in.
"We have interacted with stakeholders, we have been informed and we have been given pieces of advice that will help in making our recommendation to government. I can assure you that the committee is on top of the situation as far as dialogue is concerned and we have no serious challenges at the moment."
It is believed that the detainees being held in Lagos will be released soon as part of the government's olive branch to Boko Haram. Already, the wife of wanted Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, Mrs Hassana Yakubu-Shekau, has been released from detention, alongside other spouses and children.
Also released were Malama Zara, the wife of slain leader of the group Mohammed Yusuf and seven other wives of top Boko Haram commanders who have been in detention for months. Earlier this month, President Jonathan ordered the release of 58 Boko Haram detainees as part of a carrot-and-stick approach to ending the crisis in the hope that it would force the sect to give up violence and come to the negotiating table.
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