Newly sworn-in Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, on Friday said his new administration would, among other policies, pursue amnesty for members of Boko Haram who are ready to de-radicalise.
Mr. Shettima, who took an oath of office to serve for yet another four years alongside his deputy, Zannah Mustapha, said he would lobby the new federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari to consider granting amnesty to the militants.
Messrs Shettima and Mustapha were sworn in by the state’s chief judge, Kashim Zannah, at the Ramat Square, amidst tight security mounted by soldiers and police officers.
Mr. Shettima’s second inauguration, although low-key, was attended by guests from within and outside Nigeria.
The governor lamented the plight of the millions of Borno residents squatting at various camps of Internally Displaced Persons at the time he was being sworn-in.
Mr. Shettima said his next four years would be dedicated to rebuilding destroyed and lost communities and also pursuing policies that would create jobs and empower the youths.
“I do not intend to spoil the celebration mood today but I simply cannot ignore the fact that as we are gathered here, looking good and so full of excitement, thousands of our fellow sons and daughters of Borno, old and young, including babies that are few days old, are displaced in their own land and country,” he said.
He added that the sad tales of destructions and the faces of “our displaced sons, daughters, brothers and sisters,” told the true story of Borno today.
The governor, who described his swearing in as “a very special day in the long history of Borno”, said his second mandate was in recognition of the effort his administration made in the past four years, “to touch your lives in several areas of human endeavour”.
He acknowledged, however, that the last four years were certainly some of the most tragic and challenging in the thousand-year history of Borno.
“We have gone through the most savage insurgency of the Boko Haram sect, which massacred thousands of our people; especially destroying the cream of Borno youth and ensuring that into the next generation, we will be faced with a demographic crisis that will challenge our creative ingenuity, to overcome,” he said.
The governor said, in spite of all these, his government still managed to remain focused to build the “basic blocks of development, in agriculture, education and empowerment.”
“And we never for a moment abandoned our people,” Mr. Shettima said. “The people appreciated how we worked with sincerity, with commitment and always defending their best interests.”
Mr. Shettima lambasted the government of Goodluck Jonathan, referring to it as “a hostile Federal Government, which lived in denial about the savagery of Boko Haram and which also saw the insurgency from the most perverted, narrow and irresponsible prism, that somehow, the insurgency had been fuelled against it, by the political and other elites of this part of Nigeria.”
“They therefore did only the barest and most perfunctory, to stem the problem. Meanwhile, our people suffered and our communities were systematically laid to waste,” he said. “Democracy became the saving grace for the people.
“With our votes, we threw out a government at the centre, which did not work in the national interest and have now voted into power, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also being inaugurated into power today in Abuja.”
Mr. Shettima said the people of Borno now have the opportunity to put their problems before a “listening president, who would be willing to assist us with utmost dispatch, to accelerate our development.”
He said in the next four years, he would need the support of all citizens in the quest to rebuild the devastated communities of Borno state.
He promised an all-inclusive “growth that would focus on reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction – the three Rs.
He also reiterated his readiness to give members of Boko Haram a chance for amnesty.
“Unless we want to engage in an endless war of attrition that will be hallmarked by the continuing destruction of lives and property, it becomes imperative that willing members of the Boko Haram sect that want to come out of the bush must be given the opportunity to be de-radicalized and then rehabilitated to become useful citizens of society,” he said.
“It is never easy to accept back into the community, those who have taken up arms, killed, pillaged, raped and destroyed. But in the long run, society must make very expensive choices for peace, reconciliation and development. We are therefore appealing to the Federal Government of Nigeria and the International Community to assist our endeavour in that regard.”