Nov. 10 (PREMIUM TIMES) — The Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) on Friday called for immediate ceasefire by the extremist Boko Haram sect as a prelude to any meaningful dialogue between the Federal Government and the violent group that has claimed responsibility for spates of deadly attacks in northern Nigeria.
At a news conference in Lagos, the OPC also faulted the ongoing constitution review by the National Assembly, insisting that “no amount of tinkering and panel-beating” could reform the 1999 constitution into a “people’s document”.
OPC Founder, Frederick Faseun, said Boko Haram must unveil its identity for meaningful talks which must take place within Nigeria.
The group was recently reported to have proposed a negotiation meeting in Saudi Arabia.
“Boko Haram has remained faceless; government must insist on not discussing with a faceless group until the leaders are unveiled and known.
“And any dialogue between government and Boko Haram should hold within Nigeria,” added the OPC Founder.
Mr. Fasheun noted that since much of Boko Haram’s hostility was against Christians, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) must be represented at the proposed talks.
He suggested that negotiations should be open to accommodate other ethnic interests such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Middle-Belt Forum, Egbesu, MEND and other nationality groups, whose indigenes have been wantonly slaughtered by Boko Haram.
“Unbiased professional bodies like the Nigerian Bar Association and the Nigeria Union of Journalists can be appointed as mediators.
“Government must guarantee the safety of Boko Haram representatives, instead of viewing it as an opportunity for security agents to tail, hound and arrest the sect leaders,” he further said.
He advised the government against paying any form of compensation to members of the sect as it would set a wrong precedence.
“Compensation to a group responsible for the death of too many Nigerians will encourage other groups to start agitating,” he said.
He also urged the Federal Government to equally consider amnesty for Henry Okah if such gesture was offered to Boko Haram.
On the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly, the OPC Founder said the review amounted to “a brazen display of impunity”.
“By any stretch of their mandate, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are lawmakers and not constitution makers.
“The Constitution only gives them the power to make laws; but the power to make a Constitution, anywhere in the world, is reposed in the people.
“Hence, we shall continue to demand for the convening of a Sovereign National Conference, (SNC),” Mr. Fasehun said.
According to him, the current Nigerian Constitution is a handout from the military and only the people can determine answers to questions in the document.
“The people can only do so in the atmosphere of a Sovereign National Conference,” he added.