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Negotiating With Boko Haram
ICC Note 
Nigerian government has failed to stop the violence by the Islamic radical group, Boko Haram. We are deeply disappointed by failure of the Nigerian government to end the violence. Nigeria is able to solve this problem. What it lacks is the political will to end the violence against Christians and other targets of violence by Muslim radicals.
08/30/2012 Nigeria (Nigerian Tribune)-IT is difficult to place an exact value on the property destroyed while human lives wasted run into thousands since the Boko Haram extremists emerged on the national scene as a serious security problem. The vicious sect has continued its bombing campaign with security agents, government institutions and places of worship — particularly churches — as special targets. Apprehensive Christians can no longer perform their religious obligations in certain states. The fear of bombs has been compelling them to stay away from their churches. Pleas to the group for a respite during the Ramadan period fell on deaf ears. It was during that very period that Boko Haram gave President Goodluck Jonathan the ridiculous conditions for peace to reign in the country. He was asked to convert to Islam or in the alternative resign from the office of president into which he was voted in accordance with the country’s constitution. The bombings and killings have continued in spite of the government’s assurance that it would put an end to the nefarious activities of the sect by June this year.
ONE major source of worry about the Boko Haram menace is the approach of the government which suggests a lack of will to deal decisively with a very serious problem. At the initial stage, the government described the sect as a faceless group and sounded determined to rein it in. The same government later started negotiating with the sect through a third party. The third party pulled out of the negotiations on the allegation that the government leaked to the press discussions that were meant to be kept secret. Recently, there was another report that the Federal Government had gone into direct talks with the group. Subsequent reports even said the government was considering some of the sect’s conditions which were believed not to be too difficult to meet. What came after this was a statement in which the sect refuted holding any negotiation with the government. It was after this refutation that the government came out to say that it had had direct talks with the sect.

THE Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN) has been consistent in its position on the vexed issue of negotiation with the sect. Governor Martin Elechi of Ebonyi State also recently spoke against dialogue with the sect. So many commentators and prominent individuals have spoken in the same vein. Our position has always been that there is no basis for negotiation with extremists. As we have consistently argued, negotiation is a matter of give and take. What concessions can the government grant to a religious sect which has the objective of imposing its own religious faith on the entire North and sees the Qur’an and not the constitution as the fundamental law that must regulate the lives of the people? Can the government subject the individual’s right to a religion of their choice to negotiation? Can the government barter the people’s basic constitutional freedoms for any concession it may want to grant to Boko Haram?
THE recent demand that Jonathan either converts to Islam or resigns has further underscored the sect’s extremist posture. This is why we are disappointed at what the President said during his recent visit to Senegal that the use of absolute force to contain Boko Haram is not the best option. He had earlier been reported as saying that he could not crush the Islamic sect because “they are our siblings and you cannot set the army to wipe out your family.” This is a complete reversal of what he had said before and an outright display of lack of will. What is the level of force necessary to deal with a band of mass murderers who have brought and are insistent on bringing sorrow and tears to countless homes? What level of force is appropriate — if not the absolute — for a group of anarchists who have been killing innocent worshippers with their bombs and gunning down security operatives with relish?
THE statement credited to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Nurudeen, that Nigeria is the most Christian populated Islamic country in the world should have attracted the attention of the Presidency. If indeed he uttered those words, they were highly reprehensible and utterly irresponsible. It is a clear evidence that Nurudeen as a state official lacks the competence to portray Nigeria correctly to the rest of the world. What Nurudeen is saying is that the objective being pursued by Boko Haram is already a fait accompli. The counter statement by the substantive Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru affirming Nigeria’s secularity is not enough. Jonathan has to muster the will to deal effectively with Boko Haram and call the like of Nurudeen to order. He has violated the Constitution that upholds Nigeria’s secularity.

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