News / Africa

Nigeria Urges Islamic Leaders to Negotiate With Boko Haram

While the committee calls for peace talks, Nigerian security forces say they will destroy any area they believe to be a Boko Haram camp. (Heather Murdock/VOA).
While the committee calls for peace talks, Nigerian security forces say they will destroy any area they believe to be a Boko Haram camp. (Heather Murdock/VOA).
Heather Murdock
A Nigerian committee set up to negotiate with insurgent group Boko Haram is calling for Islamic leaders to help bridge the gap between the government and militants.  But Islamic leaders say Boko Haram violence is unfairly associated with the Muslim religion. 

On April 24, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan formally set his “Amnesty Committee” to work.  Their job was to find a way to negotiate with Boko Haram, a militant group that has killed thousands since it began violent operations in 2009.

Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
x
Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Boko Haram operates in remote areas near the borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Less than three weeks later, the president said Boko Haram had captured territory and declared emergency rule in three northeastern states, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, and sent thousands of troops to fight the group.

At a conference in the northern city of Kaduna on Sunday, Amnesty Committee Chair Kabiru Tanimu Turaki said since then, committee members have met with local governments and traditional leaders.  They have also tried to encourage Boko Haram members to come forward by releasing women and children in jail for Boko Haram-related crimes.

Boko Haram, he said, has not been all that receptive.

"We are coming from the background where initially they said they do not want amnesty," he said. "They should be the ones to give amnesty.  Again their chairman said they are not willing to enter into dialogue with any other person.  We have to find a way of talking to them.  We have to find a way of engaging them.”

The way to engage Boko Haram, he said, could be through the clergy. 

He called Boko Haram ideology, which includes a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, “misguided,” but nevertheless related to Islam.  Speaking to hundreds of Islamic leaders at the conference, he asked them to convince Boko Haram leaders that negotiations are necessary and in accordance with Islam.

“We are pleading with you in the interest of peace to call on these people.  Let them give peace a chance.  Let them allow for dialogue,” he said.

Financial compensation

Turaki also responded to calls for financial compensation for Boko Haram victims, saying it is not going to happen.

“The government will not have capacity to be able to give compensation to all those who have been affected," he said. "If you consider in places like Borno, in places like Yobe, virtually everybody, virtually every family are victims.  So how do you compensate them?”

Islamic leaders did not respond publicly to the committee’s request for help, and they asked reporters to leave while they discussed it.

But in a speech earlier Sunday, Nigeria’s leading Muslim cleric, Sultan of Sokoto Muhammed Sa'adu Abubakar, stressed criminal acts are not religious acts, just because criminals claim them to be so.

“Whenever any violence takes place anywhere in the world, if it is committed by a Muslim, you hear ‘Islamic terrorist’ or ‘Muslim terrorists’ or ‘Islamic fundamentalists," he said.

Crimes committed in the names of other religions, he added, are not nearly as often used to stigmatize the religion itself.

Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
x
Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Since declaring emergency rule in northeastern Nigeria, security forces say they have arrested hundreds of Boko Haram members and captured heavy artillery. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
“But when worse violence was affected by somebody who is not a Muslim, we do not hear the same coinage or the same personalization of that criminal activity, linking it to that particular religion,” Abubakar said.

Critics say the concept of granting amnesty and financial support to militants is an unsustainable solution because it is essentially paying criminals not to commit crimes.  Supporters of negotiations say there is a tentative peace in the oil-rich southern Niger Delta solely because the government offered amnesty and small salaries to tens of thousands of militants in 2009.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission released a report warning that a “foreseeable humanitarian crisis” could threaten recent security gains, and saying both Boko Haram and security forces may be responsible for the violence.  The commission says a farming season has been lost, thousands of people have been displaced and prices are skyrocketing.

But with the emergency zones almost entirely cut off from communications, the commission says it is hard for anybody to gauge exactly what is going on. 

Ibrahima Yakubu contributed to this report from Kaduna.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid