Jonathan Rules Out Compensation for Victims of Boko Haram Attacks, As Panel Submits Report
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday received the report of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North, saying the use of force alone cannot restore peace to the country.
But the president, however, ruled out the payment of any form of compensation to the victims, saying what the victims needed was assistance and not compensation.
He said, “We also noted the suggestion about the victims’ support because that is one of the terms of reference. How will government help to see that we can assist?
“Government is not going to compensate. It is not an issue of compensation but how do we assist people who have suffered to get back to business in one way or the other.
“Government will look into this and other recommendations in your report and see that the right decisions are taken.’’
The president agreed with the committee’s recommendation that an advisory committee be raised to continue the dialogue process.
“Your recommendations — one of them you have suggested is the setting up of an advisory committee on continuous dialogue. This I also believe in. We always say that even in war situations, finally, people must discuss at the conference table to make sure that people live in peace,” he stated.
Speaking at a brief ceremony to mark the submission of the report at the presidential villa in Abuja, Jonathan, who noted that the fight against the Boko Haram sect was a continuous process, stated that the battle is not yet over.
He said, “Force alone, no matter how, cannot bring peace. People must be willingly ready to live in peace.”
The president, who thanked the committee for delivering its mandate, said: “Let me on behalf of government welcome you to the State House and indeed thank you for accepting to serve for the period you have served. Even the day we inaugurated you, we noted that it was quite a challenging job. It’s not a ballroom dance because you were asked to meet the kind of characters you cannot even predict their behaviour.
“It is quite risky and I believe that some of you, within this period, your immediate families believed that if they used to pray two times before, they would be praying 10 times because of the assignment to make sure that God saw you through. We are indeed very happy that within this period of this assignment nothing quite untoward has happened to any of you. We have to thank God for that.
“We have to thank you for concluding, though we cannot say that we have won the war. But listening to the address by the chairman, we believe that the document you have submitted will help us with the follow-up action. Finally, we will be able to bring the issue of the excesses of the Boko Haram to a close.”
Noting that Nigeria as a country had never been associated with terror, Jonathan said: “We never experienced this kind of internal terror. Even external terror. Nigeria has never been a victim of external terror, not to talk about internal terror group that came up surprisingly and became so violent and almost becoming classified as one of the most violent groups all over the world.
“Some countries have been passing through terror for years even before the Boko Haram came on board. But within the short period Boko Haram is operating, globally, it is being classified as one of the most deadly terror groups. It is quite unfortunate that the country will get to this level, but with your report and the commitment of the security and intelligence services, we believe that we will bring this situation under a reasonable control.”
“Incidentally, we have Security Council meeting because this committee was an offshoot of the Security Council and we will review some aspects of this report and probably set up a team to look at it and work out a planned programme in terms of implementation of the recommendations.”
Earlier, the chairman of the committee and minister for special duties, Mr Kabiru Turaki, told the president that the committee extensively consulted and interacted with a broad spectrum of the society, even as it visited virtually all the states affected by the insurgency, hence the report of the committee is a product of painstaking effort in response to the desire of the federal government and the commitment of members of the committee to finding lasting solutions to the problems of Boko Haram in particular and national security challenges in general.
Turaki said the committee, in the course of its duty, discovered that there was an absence of effective conflict — early warning and early response mechanism for anticipation and prevention of violent crimes; the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria; the existence of thousands of victims of crisis many of whom will require immediate assistance and rehabilitation.
He added that traditional rulers are not fully involved in security management, which accounts for avoidable lapses in detecting undesirable elements in the society.
He explained that the committee recommended that the dialogue process which has reached an advanced stage should be continued through the establishment of an advisory committee on dialogue.
He said the committee also recommended that the advisory committee should have the powers to advise the president on all matters related to dialogue and resolution and should liaise with security agencies on matters of disarmament and amnesty as well as post-conflict developments.
According to the minister, the committee also recommended that the federal government should consider setting up a victims’ support fund to be administered by a new agency established specifically to assist victims of the insurgency.
Speaking to journalists after the event, Turaki said, “The experience is a very rewarding one because we met with a group of people who passionately believe in something, even if the basis of the belief is a misguided one. We believe there has been a lot of over-radicalisation. We believe there is a lot of misconception, particularly of some of the Islamic principles and dogma that have been made the basis of their agitations.
“Overall, it has afforded members of the committee opportunity not only to have an overview of the problems afflicting security in this country, but also to understand certain underlying factors that have precipitated acts of insurgency in this country.”
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