The Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Resolution of Security Challenges in the North on Friday released a video clip of what it described as a meeting with some leaders of the Boko Haram sect. The committee also said the men were close associates of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau.
The 30-minute video was played to State House correspondents inside the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The committee holds its meetings in the hall.
In the clip, some men identified by the committee as members of the highest decision-making body of Boko Haram, the Shura, were heard speaking in Arabic and Hausa.
In the video clip, a man described as the spokesman of the sect, Muhammd Lawan Dn Suliaman, was seen with three other men identified as Abdul-Auza’i, Al-Darnawo and Al-Maliki.
Although Suliaman read his remarks in Arabic, his words were subtitled in English. He said it was permissible to reach a peace accord and lay down arms according to Allah’s injunction in Quran Chapter 8:61.
The men explained that the decision to take part in the negotiation was based on three things: the tenets of Islam, the teachings of Prophet Muhammed and the writings of eminent Islamic scholars and jurists.
However, the authenticity of the video clip could not be independently confirmed by Saturday PUNCH and a copy was not released to our correspondent. The committee did not also tell newsmen where the meeting held and when.
But a statement issued by government and said to be the full transcription of the remarks made by Suliaman revealed that the meeting might have taking place in a prison where the men were held.
The statement reads, “We are indeed surprised with the visit paid to us by a dialogue committee set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
More surprised, the committee met us in prison custody and explained to us reason for their visit and also asked four fundamental questions.
“Firstly, is it possible to dialogue and reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict between our brothers and the Federal Government who are engaged in fighting? Secondly, which way is the dialogue going to follow? Thirdly, which assistance those of us in detention would give in realisation of that? Fourthly, what assistance do the detainees need to facilitate the dialogue?”
However, the Chairman of the Committee, Kabiru Turaki, told journalists that his committee decided to make the two-week-old video clip public in order to prove to Nigerians that indeed the government team had established contact with the sect. He added that the committee had succeeded in gaining the confidence of the sect’s leaders.
The Minister of Special Duties said government hoped that the members of the sect, whom he described as “field officers”, would see the need to embrace dialogue after “watching and listening to their leaders.”
He said, “It is incumbent on all true Muslims to accept dialogue. They (Shura members) have called on their members and Muslims to give peace a chance.
“We need to build confidence to open a line of communication. When we build on dialogue, we will get to the next stage of total ceasefire. We have not got to that level yet. No conditions have been finalised.”
Turaki, however, disclosed that the committee was still making efforts towards meeting another set of senior leaders of the group, and a splinter group, Ansaru.
He also said he could not get the military operatives in Borno State to confirm the death of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Turaki admitted that there was no clear connection between the Shura committee and the second-in-command with whom government reportedly secured an earlier peace deal, or with Shekau who is yet to be personally reached.
He further explained that his committee had no mandate to pay compensation to the victims of Boko Haram, but would advise government on how to bring “succour” to them.
Responding on Friday, the pan-northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, lauded the amnesty committee’s efforts. But the Christian Association of Nigeria in a swift reaction on Friday, expressed doubts over the video clips.
The National Publicity Secretary, ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, commended what he described as the “carrot-and-stick approach” of the Federal Government.