The North on Wednesday disagreed with the National Assembly on the proscription of two Islamic miltant groups – Boko Haram and Ansaru–by President Goodluck Jonathan.
While the North through its two prominent groups, the Arewa Consultative Forum and the Northern Elders Forum, faulted the ban, the National Assembly insisted that it was a welcome development.
To the ACF and the NEF, the Jonathan administration has through the ban thrown a spanner in the works in its efforts to end bloodletting in the North through amnesty for Boko Haram and Ansaru members.
They said they were waiting to see how the Federal Government would address the crisis in the North.
In an interview with one of our correspondents in Kaduna, the ACF’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, argued that with the ban, negotiations with Boko Haram would be difficult.
He asked, “Now that they (government) have proscribed the sect, can they now negotiate with a non-existing group?
“Before, the government told us that it was using a stick and carrot approach; that is, negotiation and state of emergency; now that they have proscribed it (Boko Haram), how will the negotiation work?
“It is the government that told us that a stick and carrot approach will work together. Now that they have gone to proscribe Boko Haram, let us see how they will apply the stick and carrot. We pray that they succeed.”
Sani wondered if the government would negotiate with members of the sect individually instead of meeting the group.
He added, “The government said they needed the emergency in order to reclaim the seized town taken over by Boko Haram. This made Nigerians, including us (ACF) to give them the go-ahead. We supported the state of emergency to reclaim seized part of the country.
“But now that they have proscribed the sect, we don’t know how they will apply the carrot. Now, how can you negotiate with an illegal entity? The group has just been proscribed. They have announced it. They are applying the stick now but we don’t know how they will apply the carrot.”
His counterpart in the NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said the proscription contradicted government’s efforts to negotiate with the sect.
Abdullahi argued that the proscription of anything should come after the legal existence of such a thing.
He added, “As far as I can understand, if there is an organisation registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and is operating according to the law before it was registered; and then along the line, the organisation begins to infringe on the laws that created it or even against its laws as registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, you can then go ahead and cancel its registration.
“If its activities are violating the law of the country, then issues like banning and proscription come into play.
“But in this case, people say they don’t know what this Boko Haram is, they don’t know the members and they are trying to get the members to come out for dialogue .
“If you are looking for dialogue, you have to expect that there will be people who will come out under certain respectable conditions.
“Two things have happened simultaneously- the declaration of a state of emergency which connotes the declaration of martial law. You cannot expect somebody to come and meet soldiers under emergency conditions and now you have the proscription.”
Apart from the ACF and NEF, the Northern Youth Consultative Forum, a former Lagos State Police Commissioner, Abubakar Tsav, and the Campaign for Democracy flayed the ban.
The N Y C F National President, Alhaji Aminu Mohammed, Tsav and CD President Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, spoke separately with our correspondents on Wednesday.
Mohammed, who expressed concern about the planned amnesty for Boko Haram members, said it was unfortunate that all along, the Jonathan administration had been playing politics with the sect.
He said, “We are all intelligent. You cannot create many things at the same time: Boko Haram, amnesty committee, fighting insurgents and proscribing the group.
“How do we trust the government? Is it not the government that is messing things up? Let them tell us who Boko Haram is? Where are they?”
On his part, Tsav asked, “Is this ban an Act of National Assembly or a decree by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan?
“Why did the President not include MEND(Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta), NDVF (Niger Delta Volunteer Force), OPC (Odua People’s Congress), Ombatse, etc in the ban since these organisations also engage in acts of terrorism?
“Was Boko Haram a legal organisation before the ban? He(President) just sleeps, dreams and acts on his dreams without thinking. Laws are made for all but GEJ’s law is discriminatory and with ethnic bias.
“This is civilian dictatorship and not democracy. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
Also, Okei-Odumakin said the ban was meaningless.She asked, “What is the use of government outlawing a group that had already declared that it was the Federal Government that should beg it for amnesty?
“It is meaningless and preposterous. The Boko Haram would laugh it off as a joke. What the government needs to do is to enforce law and order.”
Is spite of the knocks from the ACF, NEF, N Y C F, CD and Tsav, Jonathan got a strong backing from the National Assembly which said it would stand behind him in any action that would end insurgency in the country.
Senate Spokesman, Enyinnaya Abaribe, while briefing journalists on Wednesday, said, “The Senate welcomes the proscription of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the country. Although it is coming late, it is good and we will continue to support the President’s efforts to bring peace to the country.”
He clarified that the proclamation would not affect the amnesty plans, arguing that amnesty was for those who renounced their participation in terrorist activities.
Abaribe said, “Those who are still continuing with terrorism are not covered by the amnesty.”
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said, “The prescription order is a step in the right direction. As a House, we will support every proactive measure taken by the Federal Government to stem the tide of insecurity in the country.
“Whenever the government makes a pronouncement that is good, we will support it as a House.”Warning