Northern Nigeria Islamic leader calls for amnesty for war criminals and perpetrators of genocide

Sultan of Sokoto - Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar III
The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar III, himself a former soldier and head of a presidential security unit that guarded former military dictator General Ibrahim Babangida in the late 1980s, has sensationally called on President Goodluck Jonathan to grand unconditional amnesty to members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
Abubakar spoke before an Islamic group in Kaduna, a city on the fault line between the north and Nigeria's largely Christian south that has seen thousands killed in recent years in fighting between the two faiths. The sultan said that while conversations should continue among Muslims about how to encourage peace, President Goodluck Jonathan should consider offering a peace deal to stop the fighting.
"We want to use this opportunity to call on the government — especially Mr. President — to see how he can declare total amnesty to all combatants without thinking twice," he said. "If the amnesty is declared, the majority of those young men who have been running would come out and embrace that amnesty."
Though Abubakar did not speak in specifics, others have suggested offering an amnesty deal in lines with one previously given to militants in Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta in 2009. That deal offered cash payments and job training to fighters in return for them giving up their weapons and halting attacks on foreign oil companies. The sultan is the highest ranking official so far to endorse such a plan for Islamic extremists, many of whom fight as part of Boko Haram and its splinter groups.
The 2009 amnesty deal, however, did not stop attacks in the delta, nor halt the rapidly growing theft of crude oil from pipelines there that has caused serious environmental damage. The militants there also attacked the commodity that fills the nation's coffers while typically not killing civilians. Meanwhile, Boko Haram is blamed for killing at least 792 people last year alone, according to an Associated Press count, and its attacks occur hundreds of miles away from the nearest oil well.
Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram's leader, has dismissed previous offers for a peace deal and recently threatened the life of a man who claimed to be a group leader negotiating for one. The group is fighting to free its imprisoned members and install an Islamic government over Nigeria, a multi-ethnic nation of more than 160 million people.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege," has conducted its guerrilla fight across Nigeria's north over the last two years. The group's command-and-control structure remains unclear, though it appears to have sparked several splinter groups. The Sultan's call may also give credence to the claim by most political and intelligence experts in Nigeria that the northern ruling class is actually the back-bone behind Boko Haram and the continued murder of innocent civilians in the north, who just happen to be of a different faith and ethnicity.
A group of men claiming to belong to Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of seven French tourists from northern Cameroon late February — a first for the group. Meanwhile, a Boko Haram splinter group known as Ansaru has claimed the recent kidnappings in northern Nigeria of seven foreigners — a British citizen, a Greek, an Italian, three Lebanese and one Filipino — all employees of a Lebanese construction company called Setraco.
Despite the deployment of more soldiers and police to northern Nigeria, the central government has been unable to stop the killings. Meanwhile, human rights groups and local citizens blame both Boko Haram and security forces for committing violent atrocities against the local civilian population, fueling rage in the region. This could however not be further from the truth as these so-called human rights groups seem to either be unable to fully understand the complex nature of the problem or choose not to.
On Monday night, witnesses say suspected Boko Haram fighters attacked Gwoza, a village in northeastern Borno state about 135 kilometers (80 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri. Gwoza resident Umaru Yahuza said the fighting targeted a bank and the police station in the village and that gunfire lasted throughout much of the night. Yahuza said residents awoke to find corpses in the streets.
The Nigerian government must not give in to the unrealistic demands of liberal human rights groups and other individuals or groups (foreign or domestic), who have a hidden agenda, one which is not and will never be in the best interest of the country.
President Goodluck Jonathan must stand firm as the civilized world is watching.