Kabiru Turaki said the panel has completed 99 per cent of its assignment.
The Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, Kabiru Turaki, has said the panel was not given the mandate to look for the leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau, but to identify its members and dialogue with them.
Mr. Turaki also said the committee had almost completed its assignment and would soon submit its report to President Goodluck Jonathan.
The 26-member committee was set up in April to engage the Boko Haram sect, as part of the Federal Government’s proposed amnesty deal for the radical Islamic group.
Mr. Turaki, who is also the Minister of Special Duties, was speaking with journalists, on Tuesday, in Abuja, after briefing the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on the performance of the ministry since its creation six months ago.
“I think I will also ask you, where is Shekau? Now, with all sense of responsibility, we have been directed by Mr. President to identify key members of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lil da’awati wal Jihad (Boko Haram) and then engage them in dialogue. Mr. President did not ask us to look for Shekau and engage him in dialogue,” he said.
Mr. Jonathan had during his recent media chat, told Nigerians that he did not know whether Mr. Shekau was dead or not. He was responding to the claim by the Joint Task Force sometime in August that the Boko Haram leader may have been killed.
Mr. Turaki added that it was important for Nigerians to understand that the committee could not immediately connect with the highest leadership.
“Usually what happens is that after that we have been able to establish confidence, because it is necessary, they now deploy the lower rank of their membership to us, like a water testing mechanism. They would come to us we will discuss with them, when they go back without any molestation then at the next meeting they would deploy a higher set of members.
“And this is how it has been going to the level where we now are, where we have started to engage key members of these insurgencies. But for us it does not have to be Shekau,” he explained.
The minister admitted that in the course of the panel’s assignment, it came across some fake members of the sect, who came purposely to obtain money from government, insisting that the people it was currently talking to were genuine Boko Haram members.
“Dialogue committee has laid solid foundation for sustainable peace to be achieved in Nigeria. Release of captives on the order of the president has also reduced the level of insurgency in Nigeria. The dialogue committee has achieved an advanced level of negotiation,” he insisted.
On when the panel would submit its report, Mr. Turaki said, “We have almost concluded our assignment; 99 percent has been concluded.
“In the next few days probably before the end of this week, we will finish the one percent. Then as soon as we do that, we will also inform Mr. President that we have finished and he will give us date and time to present the report.”
The minister also disclosed that a total of N100 billion was budgeted each year for constituency projects, adding that this year alone the Ministry of Special Duties had identified over 2,399 of them.
He explained that the executive arm of government did not interfere in the choice, locations and the award of the contracts for the projects, but that they were always done at the discretion of the senators and members of the House of Representatives.
“The ministry is presently compiling and updating the list of constituency projects covering several sectors and also determining the status of the projects already executed by MDAs.
“Already, the ministry has identified over 2399 constituency projects which are captured in this year’s budget. To fast-track the execution of the constituency projects, the ministry has in the last two months organized a well-attended stakeholders’ forum in Abuja as well as holding crucial meeting with the body of federal permanent secretaries.”
The minister also said that the ministry conducted controversy-free selection of awardees of the Nigerian National Order of Merit, NNOM, and thus established a global reputation for the award.