Most Nigerians will be happier if members of Boko Haram sect are held accountable for their crimes.
Nigerians have disagreed with the federal government’s pay-for-peace strategy to battle the growing insurgency in northern Nigeria.
The federal Government set up a presidential amnesty committee headed by the Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki, to consider the possibility and procedure for granting amnesty to the insurgent Boko Haram who have been blamed for the killing of hundreds of people in violence in Northern Nigeria.
The amnesty if granted would be similar to that granted militants in the Niger Delta, which entails monthly payments of salaries to insurgents who agree to lay down their arms.
The Niger Delta Amnesty in 2009 led to an increase in Nigeria’s crude oil production to about 2 million barrels per day from the les than one million occasioned by the militants’ activities.
The presidential committee has already commenced its activities and has met with some of the arrested members of the Boko Haram in prison. Majority of Nigerians have now said they reject the amnesty.
In an online poll conducted by Premium Times over three weeks, majority of the 923 respondents rejected the amnesty. Seven in ten Nigerians rejected the amnesty for three different reasons.
Four out of the seven (42 per cent of voters) said rather than grant Boko Haram amnesty, members of the sect should be punished for the various crimes they have committed.
Nigeria’s strongest ally, the United States, also expressed demands similar to the voting pattern exhibited in the Premium Times's poll.
Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria released a statement where it demanded for full punishment, according to existing laws.
"Those members of Boko Haram responsible for the violence must be held accountable according to the rule of law," the U.S demanded.
The Christian Association of Nigeria and other groups have also expressed similar views.
Two of the seven who rejected the amnesty (17 per cent of voters) said rather than grant the insurgents’ amnesty, the government should spend the money meant for the amnesty to compensate the victims of the sect’s violence and their families.
Since beginning its campaign of terror, the Boko Haram sect has been blamed for deaths of about 3,000 Nigerians.
Analysts say activities of the group and government’s serial mistakes in handling the security threat presented by the group has led to the proliferation of anarchic groups in northern Nigeria.
Since offering the amnesty in its carrot and stick measure to curb the growing violence the group’s activity poses to Nigeria, the Boko Haram hierarchy has repeatedly turned down the offer, preferring the Islamisation of Nigeria instead.
One out of the seven "No to amnesty" respondents ( 12 per cent of the total respondents) based their rejection on the sect’s stance.
They said there is no basis for granting members of the sect amnesty as the group already rejected it.
Yes to amnesty
On the wall are 15 per cent of the respondents. They care less about what the government does.
They just want the federal government to provide security for Nigerians irrespective of how it goes about it. Another 15 per cent of respondents supported the planned amnesty for the sect, saying it would bring the desired peace.
The view of the voters who declared support for the amnesty is similar to that of several Northern Elders and the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar.
The pressure from the Northern elders is believed to have influenced the government into considering the amnesty.
Government changes tactics
Less than a month after inaugurating the Boko Haram committee, and following the continuous killings of security operatives in affected states, the Federal Government has also amended its tactics of resolving the insurgency.
President Goodluck Jonathan in a broadcast on Tuesday declared the use of full military force to quash the sect and other insurgents in the troubled states. The president therefore declared a State of Emergency in the most troubled States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Some Nigerians, including the Christian Association of Nigeria, have therefore asked the president to dissolve the amnesty committee saying it’s proposed task is no longer necessary.
The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, which opposed the State of Emergency declaration, has also questioned the rational of retaining the amnesty committee after declaration of war on the insurgents.
" ... by opting to flood the states with more troops under an ill-advised emergency rule, he (President Jonathan) has succeeded in pulling the carpet from under the committee’s feet.
Who negotiates genuinely with a gun to his head? The committee’s job is over, the members can as well pack up and go home," the ACN said.