A new plan by President Goodluck Jonathan to grant amnesty to members of the violent Boko Haram sect has upset Nigeria’s military chiefs.
Sources at the Presidential Villa, where the military brass met with the President for several hours today, said they tried in vain to convince Mr. Jonathan not to fall into the trap that has been set for him by prominent northern leaders on the issue.
They were said to have told him the security implications of the action and that it could also be interpreted to mean that the President is not a man of his word. Mr. Jonathan has flip-flopped on federal policy against Boko Haram since he took office in 2010.
The military bosses reminded him of his words when he visited Borno State a few weeks ago when he said that there was no way he would grant amnesty to ghosts, stressing that nothing has changed. Mr. Jonathan once said there were members of Boko Haram in his government, but it is not clear if they are still ghosts or he has identified them.
He was also said to have been reminded that many of their men and other security officers have been indiscriminately killed, warning him that telling the rank and file the decision on amnesty could ignite anger in the barracks.
At the end of the lengthy discussion, which lasted for five hours, the President had his way against the genuine advice of the military chiefs, except one. He set up a committee to handle the issue of amnesty.
The committee, whose members are yet to be announced, is to work with the office of the National Security Adviser.
A Presidential source said that the committee will consider the feasibility or otherwise of granting pardon to the Boko Haram members and collate the views of those clamouring for amnesty, as well as recommend modalities for the granting of pardon should such a policy be adopted.
President Jonathan seems to have adopted the argument of the northern elements after meeting with some of their prominent members in Abuja on Wednesday night. Although today he seem highly disposed to the amnesty idea, he is known to change his mind fairly easily.