Abuja - A presidential panel set to seek an amnesty deal with Islamist group Boko Haram Thursday met with about 40 suspected members of the sect being held in prison outside Abuja.
Panel chairman Kabiru Tanimu Turaki told journalists: "We have had very useful discussions with some inmates that are being held here on the allegations of being either members of Jama'a Ahl al-sunnah li-da'wa wa al-jihad (Boko Haram) on account of terrorism or acts related there to."
He did not disclose details of the discussion that the panel, set up last month, had with the detained suspected sect members.
Since Tuesday when the panel began its assignment, he said it has held meetings with some other stakeholders on the issue such as the national security adviser, officials of the department of state security service, the police and the prison service.
"We are looking for ways of having dialogue, constructive, honest and frank dialogue with all major stakeholders across the board," he said, as he stepped away from the closed-door meeting to talk to journalists.
"What we are trying to do is to open a credible channel for engaging all sides in useful discussions. We want to dialogue with them...we want to give every side the opportunity. It is about total disarmament. We are trying to get information that will be useful," Turaki said.
The talks began as the insurgents intensified their deadly attacks in some parts of the north.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday hit out at gunmen he called "armed terrorists" who launched attacks on military barracks, a prison and police stations in the town of Bama which left 55 people dead.
A statement released by his office said Jonathan warned that his government's consideration of dialogue with insurgents should not be seen as a sign of weakness.
Violence linked to Boko Haram's insurgency has left some 3 600 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
An attack mid-April in the remote fishing town of Baga near Lake Chad was "unprecedented" according to Human Rights Watch, leaving some 200 people dead and thousands of houses razed.
The Nigerian Red Cross has said that 187 people were killed in the fighting, while an area senator put the death toll at 228.