The Presidency on Sunday replied the growing band of northern leaders asking for amnesty for members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, asking the leaders to first identify and talk to those to be granted amnesty.
It said it behoved the northern agitators to identify members of the sect before asking the government for amnesty.
The Presidency also warned them not to turn the Boko Haram issue to a north versus south case.
“They (those calling for amnesty for Boko Haram members) should identify the people and talk to them before posing a challenge to government to grant them amnesty,” spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday in Abuja.
Since the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, asked the President to grant members of the sect amnesty, a demand that Jonathan has rebuffed because he said he could not grant amnesty to ghosts, there have been more voices from the north asking the Federal Government for amnesty for boko Haram members.
Just on Friday, the Northern Traditional Rulers Council urged the Federal Government to reconsider its stand and offer amnesty to members of Boko Haram and other violent Islamic sects who are willing to embrace peace and reintegration into the larger society.
The call came as a resolution that emerged from the council’s meeting held at the palace of the Sultan.
In a statement issued by the coordinating secretary of the council and Emir of Kazaure, Alhaji Najib Hussaini Adamu, the group comprising traditional rulers from across the North called for decisive action from the Federal Government to curb the “unfortunate escalation of insecurity in the country.”
Abati said it would be “wrong and mischievous” for anybody or group to see the Boko Haram menace and the call for amnesty as a North versus South issue.
He said the matter was a national issue that required everybody, including those calling for amnesty, to rally round governments at all levels to solve.
He said, “The first issue to be made clear is that it is wrong and mischievous to term the Boko Haram saga and the call for amnesty a North versus South issue.
“The concern of government is to ensure peace and security in all parts of the country, not regional or ethnic matter.
“In saying that he can’t grant amnesty to ghosts, the President made it clear that if members of the sect come forward to lay down their arms and list their grievances, government will listen to them.
“With that declaration, the President threw a challenge to leaders in the affected places: local, political and traditional leaders. They have the responsibility to join hands with government by making efforts. They should identify the people and talk to them before posing a challenge to government.
“To move the country forward is a collective responsibility. They should stop sloganeering. Rather than attacking government, they should support the government.”
Abati also warned those who hold positions of responsibility to always refrain from making inflammatory remarks that are capable of compounding the insecurity in the country.
He said a state governor claimed publicly that the SURE-P was concentrating its projects in a part of the country at the expense of the North, saying such a statement was unbecoming of a person occupying a position of high responsibility like a state governor.
Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso was quoted on Saturday to have said that some Federal Government’s policies were largely favourable to a particular section of the country at the expense of the North’s economic and political interest.
“A situation whereby NDDC is working for a particular region, a ministry entirely dedicated to serve a particular region and so many resources invested in the SURE-P project are directed towards a particular part of the country is not in the best interest of all Nigerians,” Kwankwaso was quoted as saying while receiving members of the Arewa Consultative Forum’s executive council during the group’s visit to him.
The Kano State governor argued that a lot of the challenges currently facing the country today had been caused by the uneven distribution of resources among all sections of the country by the government, lamenting that even appointments and political patronage are not as balanced as they should be.
But Abati said contrary to Kwankwaso’s claim, SURE-P’s projects cut across all parts of the country.
He said the programme of the SURE-P was a public document that is open for all to see.