The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has expressed concerns over reports that the Federal Government was engaging in a secret programme tagged, Suhlu, positioned to rehabilitate top commanders of Boko Haram insurgents and the Islamic State for West African Province (ISWAP) and provide them with a means of livelihood.
According to the group, the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari should unveil the identities of Boko Haram sponsors, especially the 400 Bureau De Change (BDC) operators that were identified by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates.
These demands were made in a communique issued after the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the MBF, held in Akwanga, Nasarawa State at the weekend, to dialogue on the many issues affecting the region and Nigeria as a whole.
Ripples Nigeria earlier published that a report by a United Nations (UN) independent news organisation, The New Humanitarian (formerly IRIN News), had uncovered the secret Sulhu programme by the Nigerian government.
According to the UN organisation, Sulhu grew out of the behind-the-scenes attempts to free the more than 270 Chibok schoolgirls seized by Boko Haram in 2014, and is applauded by its supporters as smart warfare – a means to remove the senior jihadists from the battlefield more effectively than the orthodox military campaign.
But in the communique signed by its President, Dr Pogu Bitrus, the group kicked against any form of amnesty for insurgents and other terrorist groups, who they said “have their hands dripping with blood”.
Commending southern governors and some governors in the Middle Belt and their State Assemblies for having the courage to pass the anti-open grazing laws in their states, the Forum condemned the directive by Miyetti Allah to its members not to obey the anti-grazing laws, and their threat to make the states that attempt to implement the laws ungovernable.
The communiqué read, “NEC finds worrisome, given the report by the UN that the Federal government is secretly engaged in negotiations tagged ‘Sulhu’ with Boko Haram terrorists through which the Federal Government is allegedly offering monetary rewards to insurgents and other criminals.
“Consequently, NEC is totally opposed to this project and also opposed to any form of amnesty to insurgents and other terror groups who have their hands dripping with blood. NEC is also vehemently opposed to any planned recruitment of these so-called repentant terrorists into the national security architecture.
“NEC calls on the Federal Government to identify, apprehend and bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against humanity to justice to serve as a deterrent to others. Consequently, NEC calls on the government to set up an agency to be called the Middle Belt Development Commission to serve as an intervention agency in addressing the challenges caused by the activities of these terrorists.
“Many schools and places of worship in the Middle Belt region have remained closed due to the criminal activities of these Fulani kidnappers and bandits. NEC regrets that many school children and other hapless citizens are still languishing in the dens of kidnappers. NEC further appeals to the government to take urgent steps to rescue those in captivity.”
The communiqué read further, “Nigeria has been plunged into a critical situation of insecurity occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram terrorists, armed Fulani militia, kidnappers/bandits and other related criminal elements. This spate of insecurity has pushed the nation to the precipice. NEC calls on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to arrest the situation and save the nation from another civil war.
“The incessant invasions by Fulani militia on several communities across the Middle Belt region in particular, and other parts of the country in general, have assumed genocidal/ethnic cleansing scale. These attacks have left in their wake mind-boggling massacres and devastations in our communities and displacement of indigenous people to various Internally Displaced Person camps.
“NEC calls on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to return displaced communities to their ancestral lands, given the fact that territory can no longer be acquired in the 21st century by the use of force. NEC also calls on the government to identify all IDPs in the Middle Belt region and provide relief materials for them.”
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