An audio message purportedly from the leader of the Islamist militant sect Boko Haram, says the group would reject a government offer of an amnesty.
In a 30-minute audio message in the Hausa language of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north, Abubakar Shekau rejected the idea of a potential amnesty, which the country's presidency said it would study in a bid to curb a bloody insurgency.
Last week the Nigerian government set up a committee to investigate the feasibility of an amnesty for members of Boko Haram. Elders have been pressing President Goodluck Jonathan to pardon the militants.
DW: Do you think the views of Abubakar Shekau reflect opinions inside Boko Haram?
Tukur Abdulkadir: The problem with the group is that very many splinter groups have emerged so it is very difficult for an analyst to pin down the reality of the infighting or the politics surrounding Boko Haram. Not long ago, some members of Boko Haram addressed the press in Maiduguri and they declared their readiness to go into dialogue with the federal government with a view to putting an end to the blood-letting in the country. A few days after the press conference the Abubakar Shekaku group came and disassociated itself from the group (in Maiduguri). This shows there is a rift between the ranks of the Boko Haram at the moment.
Shekau says his group has not committed any wrong to deserve amnesty. Could you explain what means by this?
I think what he is invariably trying to say is that first and foremost they were wronged by the government, because actually it all began when the military authorities in Maiduguri disrupted their funeral procession and shot about twenty three members of the group. And after that the ensuing crisis led to partial definition of the group and most importantly the murder or extra judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf and other prominent leaders of the group. I think that is what he is actually referring to and again to other places where civilian authorities decided to destroy mosques and schools belonging to the group.Security agencies in the northern area descended heavily on them, in every nook and cranny of the region. And I think human rights groups also condemned the handling of the crisis and believed that the government should have been more humane.
The amnesty committee has been set up and its findings will be presented next week. What will be the government's position on receiving its report?
If the comments that we have been receiving from the government side are anything to go by, one would say that the government should go ahead and remain with the amnesty plan. The current position of Shekau or the position of the Boko Haram leadership notwithstanding, the government I am sure will not be deterred in that regard.
How do you think the government should resolve the crisis in the north?
Well, it requires a great deal of sacrifice on the part of the authorities. First and foremost the current leadership of Abubakar Shekau has constantly reminded the government about the numbers of their supporters that are actually languishing in jails and I think the government should look into this matter especially the children and the families of the Boko Haram people. The government should ensure that all the people that have been illegally detained are released immediately. And those that are facing some charges - the government should not hesitate to put them on trial. Probably, who knows, that in the course of the trial, a resolution of the crisis will have been found. There seems to be no political will and the security agencies do not seem to have any better idea of how to resolve this problem. I know in Afghanistan the United States has embarked on what they called winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans. But in northern Nigeria the authorities, especially the military, do not consider the people. They think that they alone have the monopoly of understanding what security is all about and they believe that sheer force is the answer to the current insurgency and, of course, force cannot bring about an end to this problem.
Is there much popular support for an amnesty among the population?
Yes, there is a great deal of support for the amnesty program. The majority of people in northern Nigeria, both Muslims and Christians, are disenchanted and disillusioned with the state of affairs. You will see despair and hopelessness and everyone is desirous of an end to this conflict, they are all fed up. The north used to be a bastion of peace and unity and now people are relocating to other parts of the country. So people are generally supportive of the idea of amnesty and I am sure government will not find any obstacles in implementing it once the political will is there.
Tukur Abdulkadir is a senior lecturer at the University of Kaduna.
Interview: Asumpta Lattus