May 21 (GIN) – Fulfilling a demand by the insurgent Boko Haram rebel organization, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has agreed to release from jail some suspects and all women “held in connection with terrorist activity.”
The decision was aimed at enhancing peace efforts in Nigeria, according to the defense ministry.
Talk of an amnesty for Boko Haram militants ended abruptly this month when the Nigerian government declared an offensive in three states in northeastern Nigeria, a region known to be a stronghold of the Boko Haram militants.
Pres. Jonathan announced the ‘state of emergency’ in a televised address on May 14. His orders were based on growing evidence that Boko Haram now controls substantial territory around Lake Chad, where local officials have fled.
The battle between Boko Haram, which condemns western influences and promotes an Islamic state, and Nigeria’s security forces has taken more than 2,000 lives. Gross human rights abuses have been reported on both sides.
In a sign that the conflict will be jumping borders, Nigeria has asked neighboring Niger for military support as it seeks to police 870 miles of shared desert borders. Nigerians fleeing across porous borders are straining the limited resources of its neighbors who have already absorbed thousands of Malians and at least 500 Nigerian refugees.
Nigeria’s troubles have already drawn in the U.S. military. In February this year, the Defense Department began funneling intelligence assets into the west African nation to assist local efforts against the Islamist group.
“We are working with the Nigerian Army to tackle the activities of Boko Haram in the area of intelligence support. We are committed to ensuring that we partner with others to end terrorism anywhere in the work,” Army Gen. Carter Ham said in a briefing from the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany earlier this year.
Nigeria’s government has been cited numerous times for its failure to curb massive corruption that leaves a resource-rich country without any of the benefits. A report released by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan found that tax avoidance, secret government deals and other illicit schemes cost African nations $38 billion a year.
President Jonathan this week blamed foreign banks for the ease in which money can be secretly transferred. “Corruption would be minimized if there were no places to hide the illicit funds,” he said. He challenged oil refineries worldwide to ask questions about the source of the crude they refined, adding that the administration was taking steps to check crude oil theft from Nigeria.