Nigeria leader backs militant talks

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a new committee to look at how an amnesty for the Islamist group, Boko Haram, can be implemented. The committee will consider a 60-day timeframe for dialogue and disarmament, according to a statement from the president’s office.

It will also look into support for victims of the violence.

The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has left thousands of people dead since it began in 2009.

The presidential committee, whose 25 members include military figures, academics and politicians, will try to address the underlying causes of insurgencies to prevent them recurring, says the statement.

In addition, President Jonathan has approved the establishment of another government committee on the proliferation of small arms in an attempt to increase security and reduce instability.

Both committees will be inaugurated on 24 April.

‘Significant move’

Religious and political leaders in northern-eastern Nigeria, the epicentre of the insurgency, recently called for an amnesty.

The president responded at the beginning of April by asking a team of security advisers to look into the possibility of granting the militants a pardon.

That team reported to the National Security Council, the presidential statement said, leading to the establishment of the committee which will try to “constructively engage key members of Boko Haram and define a comprehensive and workable framework for resolving the crisis of insecurity in the country”.

The editor of the BBC’s Hausa service, Mansur Liman, says the amnesty move is significant – initially President Jonathan had dismissed the idea.

It is a sign of acknowledgement from the president that the military crackdown is not working, he says.

However, it is unclear how seriously the president’s move will be taken by the insurgents, who are thought to comprise many different factions.

Last week, Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamic state across a swathe of Nigeria, rejected the idea of an amnesty.

An audio statement believed to be from the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the group had done no wrong so an amnesty could not apply to its members.

He accused the government of committing atrocities against Muslims.

Boko Haram’s campaign of violence and the accompanying military response across northern and parts of central Nigeria is estimated to have killed at least 2,000 people.

Source: BBC

[Photos] 10 bodies retrieved from flooded mining pits at Gbane UE/R


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