By Olalekan Adetayo/Punch
Facts emerged on Friday that the Federal Government was considering some of the peace terms of Boko Haram, the fundamentalist Islamic sect, which had masterminded bombings in the North for more than one year.
The Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, had after the Federal Executive Council meeting last Wednesday, told journalists that government had accepted to hold talks with Boko Haram in the interest of peace.
Earlier demands of the Islamic sect had included release of their members being detained and prosecuted, and President Goodluck Jonathan’s conversion to Islam.
However, the Presidency had spurned these demands.
But it was authoritatively gathered that one of the sect’s fresh demands was the payment of compensation or Diyya for their members they considered “killed unjustly” by security forces.
Our correspondent learnt that government might accede to the Diyya demand.
The sect is reported to have identified about 24 of such members.
One of them was the leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in 2010 in Maiduguri, after he was reportedly captured alive by soldiers.
Yusuf was then handed over to the police, under whose custody, he died mysteriously.
Our correspondent learnt that the sect put the compensation to the family of the 24 deceased members at N2million each.
Consequently, for the 24 families, the Diyya to be paid is N48million.
Apart from compensation, the sect is also pressing for the release of those clamped into detention without committing any crime.
Presidency insiders said these were “not too difficult conditions.”
Under this category of persons are women and children whom they said were innocent.
The thinking of the government based on ongoing dialogue, is that the sect might not object to the trial of those found to be deeply involved in crime, once those “wrongly arrested or detained” breathe the air of freedom.
Once these conditions were met, they would cease fire, a source stated.
Contrary to the widely-held view, it was discovered that the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), was not the brain behind the ongoing talks between the Federal Government and the sect.
Government does not want to expose those behind the talks to avoid a previous experience, when the disclosure of the identities of the dialogue handlers frustrated the move.
A top presidency source said, “I can confirm to you that it is true that the group is currently dialoguing with the government.
“The good news is that they are talking and they have promised to cease fire once some of their demands are met.
“For conditions that are not difficult to meet such as the demand for Diyya for their 24 identified members that were killed, the government may meet such demands.
“Government can also give critical thought to those found to be innocent, but are being detained or prosecuted, particularly women and children as demanded by the group since they do not have any objection to the trial of those genuinely involved in crime.
“They have on their own promised to cease fire and go after the ‘political Boko Haram’ once the demands are met.”
The Voice of America had reported on Tuesday that Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, a top member of the sect, claimed that Boko Haram decided to initiate the peace moves in response to numerous public appeals for peace in the country.
Earlier peace talk between the two parties was stalled when a Muslim cleric, Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmad, who was a mediator in the discussions called it quit.
Ahmad, the President, Supreme Council of Shariah in Nigeria, said in a statement that he had come to doubt the sincerity of the Federal Government after information from a confidential meeting was leaked to the press.
He had confirmed that his group had made contact with “leadership of the sect and established from them that as Muslims they were prepared to consider ‘Sulhu’ which means ‘broad reconciliation’ regarding the dispute between them and the government.”
Ahmad had then set up a meeting with members of the top echelon of government in Nigeria to discuss a possible reconciliation. The meeting, he said, had taken place on March 5, 2012.