The Presidency has confirmed that it has commenced dialogue with members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram. Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati told Punch that the dialogue was however not the type envisaged by Nigerians.
“I can confirm to you that talks are ongoing at the background. But the talks are not the kinds being envisaged by Nigerians. I know that some Nigerians are expecting that a venue should be chosen and a banner will be placed there indicating that the Federal Government is holding dialogue with the group there. That is not the kind of talks we are talking about here. The ongoing talk is a back channel one in which those who know members of the group are talking with them on behalf of the government.”
This admission by the Presidency is quite different from the terms of negotiation which was demanded by the sect a few weeks ago. According to the demands they made then, they insisted that the dialogue must not take place in Nigeria but in Saudi Arabia. They further demanded that, all their members, who were arrested and are under the custody of security agencies must be released immediately, just as their wives and children who were displaced following the crises should be rehabilitated into the society to allow room for the much talked about dialogue with the Federal Government.
They also listed the Nigerian mediators to include Alhaji Shettima Ali Mongonu, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Ambassador Gaji Galtimari and Barrister Aisha Wakil and her husband. However, Buhari has since rejected the offer.
Boko Haram has been responsible for the death of hundreds of people since their uprising, with their bombing attacks occurring mostly in Northern states of the country.
This news of the secret manner of negotiations has gotten Nigerians apprehensive as many think that the Federal Government might offer them some kind of compensation similar to the Amnesty Programme of Niger Delta militants. And it doesn’t sit well with Nigerians. The sect has terrorized, killed and destroyed the peace of the nation for several months. The secret negotiations therefore with the possibility of some form of compensation sounds like weakness on the part of the government.