Possible measures that would grant amnesty to members of the militant group Boko Haram are to be reviewed this week by a commission established by Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Barrister Solomon Dalong, a leading member of the Boko Haram Commission, says Nigeria has granted amnesty to several groups as part of efforts by previous governments to end violence and stabilize the country.
“It is a solution being brought in to assist a perennial problem that escalates on daily basis. Simply put, we are trying to solve the problem in our own way.”
Dalong dismissed suggestions that granting amnesty to members of Boko Haram is a bad precedent that will encourage people to take up arms against the government, terrorize citizens, and threaten the country’s investment potential.
“What is the basis of people carrying arms against the Nigerian state? We must go back and look at it. And that is one of the reasons why this committee that is going to handle the issue of amnesty should also be given time, to take a look at some of the remote causes and the fundamental issues that has generated this type of problem,” said Dalong.
Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram-related violence has killed 3,000 people since 2009, a toll that includes killings by security forces.
Some observers say the government should not consider granting amnesty to “faceless” insurgents who have killed and maimed thousands of Nigerians with an aim to force the country to adopt strict Islamic law. Dalong disagrees.
“These are not faceless people, because some people have been arrested by the security services they have been paraded as leaders of this group and they are still in custody ... even if they are faceless, that is the more reason why amnesty is more desirable,” said Dalong.
“These arm carrying groups have been fighting and they have not come in the open,” continued Dalong, “it is only amnesty, the taking away of the criminal responsibility that will make them come out.”
Some Nigerians have criticized the government for failing to resolve the security challenges Boko Haram poses, despite the deployment of the military and other security agencies to parts of the country where the group often operates.
“A situation has been created where the citizens in the affected areas prefer to fraternize with the insurgents than even cooperating with our troops. And their argument has been that the troops, in carrying out their operation, has abused substantially, rights of innocent citizens,” said Dalong.
The situation is threatening the basic foundation of the nation continued Dalong, “and so we must come up with an alternative strategy that will solve the problem.”
Dalong contends granting amnesty to members of the Boko Haram group will help save lives and property, as well as ensure the country’s unity and stability..