Minister of Youth Development, Mr. Boni Haruna, on Thursday disclosed that President Goodluck Jonathan has announced amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect as parts of his administration’s youths-friendly programmes and policies.
Haruna disclosed this while giving an overview of youth’s position in the present administration’s transformation agenda at a special event tagged “A day with young leaders of Nigeria” to mark the nation’s Democracy Day in Abuja.
The minister said series of integration programmes have been lined up for members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.
He therefore called on them to embrace the government’s gesture.
The minister said, “President Goodluck Jonathan has also declared amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect.
“Series of integration programmes have been lined up for the members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.
“Let me use this opportunity on behalf of the Federal Government, to call on the members of the Boko Haram sect to embrace the government’s gesture and key to amnesty programme.”
He recalled that in the wake of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta, the government came up with a development programme which provided an opportunity for the youth to express themselves and have a meaningful life.
Haruna said although the amnesty programme was a fallout of a bitter national security, its effect on the youth had been profound.
He disclosed that 30,000 youths have benefitted from the programme which has seen beneficiaries transforming from militants to wealth creators, employers of labour and skilled citizens.
Jonathan, while answering questions from youths who attended the programme, said military alone was incapable of stopping terrorism or any kind of radicalism.
He said terrorism could not succeed in any community without local supports.
He stressed the need for people who are respected by the insurgents to join hands with government to persuade them to desist.
The President said, “Terror succeeds with local support. It will be difficult for terror to thrive where people reject it. It is a major challenge to all of us.
“Military alone cannot stop terror or any radicalism. Terrorists have people they respect, they have community, traditional and opinion leaders they respect. All of us can deradicalise them.
“We will through persuasive activities encourage people to shun violence.”
He said his government was already working out the modalities for reintroducing moral education into school curriculum.
This, he said, would assist in re-orientation the young people in order to distinguish between right and wrong things.
Jonathan promised that his administration would continue to encourage young people because they are no longer leaders of tomorrow but of today.
He said youths are already leading because they decide who rules at all levels of government by virtue of their population which he put at 60 per cent of the electorates.
The President also reiterated his position that the nation’s income distribution was skewed.
While saying that government was working hard to redistribute wealth, he added that one of the emphasis of the government is to encourage self-employment.
Responding to a question on the need to have a youth as the Minister of Youth Development, Jonathan said “the best person to take care of a child may not necessarily be a child.”
He added that the young ones needed to tap from the experiences of older ones.
He also stressed the need for political parties to give women more opportunities.
The event which was held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja was nearly marred by interruption in power supply.
The ugly incident occurred at the time Jonathan mounted the podium to present a compendium of his administration’s achievements in the last one year and answer questions from youths who attended the event.
Jonathan remained standing in front of the participants with his security aides for about 15 minutes while the power failure caused by the generating set being used lasted.
He was at the verge of returning to his seat to give organisers time to rectify the fault when power was finally restored.
President of the Senate, David Mark; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, were among dignitaries who were conspicuously absent at the special event.
Among former Heads of State, only the former Head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, attended the event.
He was joined by a former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme; and a former Chief of General Staff, Oladipo Diya.
Jonathan attended the event alongside his wife, Patience; Vice President Namadi Sambo; and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Maryam Mukhtar.
The tone for the event was set by the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed, who narrated the circumstances leading to his appointment as a minister at a young age of 33.
The event featured the presentation of the third anniversary of the present administration’s transformation agenda in book form by the President, a video documentary of the third anniversary of the transformation agenda and the launching of Youth Entrepreneurial Mentorship and Empowerment Scheme among others.
Highlight of the event also included a motivational talk by the Chief Executive Officer, Mara Foundation, Mr. Ashish Takker, said to be the youngest African billionaire.