They cited President Goodluck Jonathan’s denial of dialoguing with the sect during the Presidential Media Chat last Sunday and the offer of cash rewards for information leading to the capture of 20 leaders of the group on Friday, as their reasons.
The spokesman of the Northerner Elders’ Forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, said the bounty placed on the leaders of Boko Haram, was an indication that the Federal Government has suspended the plans to negotiate with the sect.
He also said the President could not say leaders of the group were still faceless.
According to him, it was the responsibility of the Federal Government to kick-start the negotiation with the sect in the interest of Nigerians.
He said, “If by facelessness, Jonathan means that there are different versions of Boko Haram, then it is understandable. Security agencies have been arresting people they say are leaders of the sect. So, there must be something not quite correct here.
“When we (NEF) met the President, we suggested the carrot-and-stick approach to him and he accepted it. However, what is reprehensible is the excessive application of the stick. What Nigerians want to see is the end of the violence and loss of innocent lives.
“If Jonathan applies himself to it, he would identify people he can talk to and they would relate his message to Boko Haram. He has to create the atmosphere for that negotiation to happen.”
Unongo added that when the Federal Government could not handle the violent activities of the Niger Delta militants, it negotiated with them.
He said, “The militants were rehabilitated and compensated with huge sums of money; some of them were given big contracts. If it was possible for the militants in the Niger Delta, which is Jonathan’s part of the country, why would it not be possible for Boko Haram in the North?”
On the cash reward placed on the leaders of the sect, Unongo said, “On the surface, placing a bounty on the heads of the leaders of Boko Haram shows that the FG has dropped negotiation.”
Similarly, Secretary of the Borno State Elders’ Forum, Dr. Bulama Gubio, said by giving excuses for the inability of the Federal Government to initiate the negotiation, Jonathan had shown poor commitment to resolving the crisis.
He said, “Since the President has said there is no negotiation going on between the Federal Government and Boko Haram, what else can we say? All we can do is to continue to appeal to both sides to negotiate in the interest of the people.
“Our people are dying every day and our economy is paralysed. Borno State is still part of Nigeria, so the Federal Government should swallow its pride and go the extra mile to make sure the negotiation works. I don’t think Federal Government can solve the problem without negotiation.”
In addition, the Convener of the Concerned Northern Professionals, Politicians, Academics and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said it would amount to double standards if Jonathan’s administration shies away from negotiating with Boko Haram, the way the late President Umaru Yar’dua did with Niger Delta militants.
“The Federal Government has been spending about N1bn every year on security; that amounts to about 20 per cent of the total budget going to the armed forces. So, they have made a lot of money and would not be interested in seeing the end of the violence,” he claimed.
However, the spokesman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, said offering cash rewards for the capture of the leaders of the sect does not stop the Federal Government from going ahead with the negotiation.
He said, “There is nothing new about placing a cash reward on Boko Haram members. A cash reward was promised for Osama bin Laden’s head. I don’t think the action and negotiation are mutually exclusive. Even the United States suggested the carrot-and-stick method. So, it doesn’t mean that the Federal Government cannot still negotiate.”