President Goodluck Jonathan, Wednesday, inaugurated the Committees on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North as well as the one on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
He however used the opportunity of the occasion to send a strong warning to soldiers on duty in troubled areas of the North to be mindful of innocent citizens in the course of discharging their duties.
Apparently referring to the killings in Baga, a fishing community in Borno State, following a bloody clash between the multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) and suspected members of Boko Haram, Jonathan warned that as investigation of the situation continues, any security operative found wanting will not be spared.
He said that the report that Baga was still under siege and that the military had been blocking relief officials from accessing the town was being investigated.
He nonetheless assured that “government will take steps to make sure that if errors are made, such people are cautioned and treated in line with our own laws and regulations.”
Observing that the Boko Haram committee was ‘quite critical’ as Nigerians were expecting it to “perform magic,’’ Jonathan said “without peace we cannot develop,” adding “ no matter how committed we are, without peace, we cannot progress as a nation.”
Members of the committee are Sheik Ahmed Lemu, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Col. Musa Shehu, (rtd.), Sheik Abubakar Tureta, Senator Sodangi Abubakar, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Hon. Mohammed B. Matawalle and Amb. Zakari Ibrahim.
Others are Hajiya Naja’atu Mohammed, Malam Adamu S. Ladan, Dr. Joseph Golwa, AVM A. I. Shehu, Mr. R. I. Nkemdirim, DIG P. I. Leha, Prof. Nur Alkali, Malam Salihu Abubakar and Alhaji Abubakar Sani Lugga.
The rest are Barrister Ibrahim Tahir, Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo (rtd), Amb. Baba Ahmed Jidda, Group Capt. Bilal Bulama, (rtd), Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf and a representative of the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The terms of reference of the Boko Haram committee, which is expected to submit its report in three months, are: To establish link and open up dialogue with the members of the Boko Haram; to develop a framework through which disarmament will take place and work out sustainable option that could lead to granting amnesty to this group.
The committee, which is also expected to develop a comprehensive victims’ support programme to provide succour to casualties of the protracted conflicts, is also to suggest how to address the underlining causes of the crisis so as to forestall future occurrence.
“And as we are trying to address the issue of Boko Haram, we must also comprehensively address the issues directly affecting the people,” the President told members of the committee.
He added: “In as much as we appreciate that in any human situation there must be disputes, disagreements and conflicts, if we know about these and we have a good approach early enough, I believe that it will not degenerate to the situation we have today.”
Speaking on the rationale for the constitution of the committee, the president said although some of the members were not consulted before their inclusion.
“All of you are aware of the challenges we have as a nation; and when your names were mentioned, you willingly agreed to play your own part to see how we can stabilise the country, to bring peace and development in our country,” he said.
It will be recalled that when the committee was initially constituted, Dr. Ahmad Datti and Comrade Shehu Sani were on it, but they opted out, saying they were not consulted before their names were drafted.
Urging members of the committee to do their best possible as he urged Nigerians to give the members utmost support, the President said: “As a nation and as a government, we will work towards the security of this country. We will continue to do our best, we will continue to do things that will bring development to this nation. But we cannot succeed without the support of all our citizens.
“Therefore, we crave your indulgence to be patriotic to this country. All Nigerians should show their patriotism to the nation, support the government, support these two committees to succeed. That is the only way we can, because we have to work with information that will be freely given by Nigerians.”
In his remarks after the inauguration, the chairman of the committee, who is also the minister of Special Duties, Barrister Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, observed that the occasion was an indication that the Jonathan Administration was committed to curbing the spate of insecurity not only in the north but everywhere in the country.
Noting that the task before the committee was not an easy one, Turaki said their inauguration “has provided a veritable platform for genuine and sincere resolution of the crisis situation in the north.”
Assuring Jonathan of the commitment of the members, he said: “I assure you sir that members of this committee are prepared to bring everything that we have, our diverse experiences, our education, professionalism, tactics, skills and above all our integrity to bear in the work of this committee.
“We are not under any illusion that this will be an easy task, but we are resolute. We feel challenged by this enormous responsibility that has been given to us. I want to assure you and indeed all Nigerians that in doing and carrying out this assignment, we are not going to bring any presumptions, conclusions or assumptions.
“ We are coming with open mind. I therefore want to appeal to all Nigerians to assist us with useful information to enable us carry out our assignment.