BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Dep Political Editor
EIGHTEEN days after a faction of the Boko Haram Islamic sect announced a cease-fire following a 42-month multi-prong attack on military, police and security facilities and churches among others that claimed about 3000 lives there is still fear in the land.
Continuing attacks by gunmen and counter-attacks from security forces, which have led to the death of 53 Nigerians including nine policemen and a soldier, indicate that the country is still a long way from bidding terrorism good bye.
This is in spite of the fact that no one has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks affecting four states that cut across two geo-political zones of the country.
How cease-fire was brokered
The January 28 peace deal was brokered after a marathon meeting between some leaders of the group, which has been terrorizing some states in the North, particularly Borno since July 2009, and the Borno State Government led by Governor Kashim Shettima with other top government officials and religious leaders from the state in attendance.
Why we’re sheathing our sword – Boko Haram commander
Briefing newsmen after the marathon meeting in Maiduguri, Sheikh Abu Mohammad Abdulazeez Ibn Idris a commander of Boko Haram in-charge of North and Central Borno, said after due consultation with the leader of the sect, Shiekh Abubakar Shekau, as well as intervention and pleadings from respected individuals and groups in the state, we ‘’have all come to terms and agreed to lay down our arms.’’
The Boko Haram Commander however, insisted that, government should immediately release all their members from custody unconditionally, re-build their places of worship and compensate them among other demands.
Sheikh Abdulazeez said that, the sect observed that during the lingering insurgency, a lot of Muslim women and children had suffered untold hardship, adding that, they also decided to lay down their arms for peace to reign in Borno and the country at large.
“I am appealing and calling on all our members through this medium to lay down their arms henceforth, till further notice,” Abdulazeez stated.
Will cease-fire lasts?
Given the devastating effect of Boko Haram’s attacks, which have crippled the economies of many northern states, recurring clashes between the group and security agents, which have claimed many lives on both sides, distrust between the government and leaders of the sect and emergence of splinter groups, the question on the lips of many observers is: will the cease-fire hold water?
FG treats sect’s ceasefire with caution
Responding to the issue, Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, said in Abuja penultimate Tuesday that the ceasefire declared by Boko Haram would be treated with caution.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after the opening of a two-day seminar on “National Security” at the Defence College, Ibrahim said there were certain objective tests that would ensure that the declaration made sense.
“There are certain objective tests we think that will make sense. Let us assume that we can have a long period of about one month where no bomb explodes, where nobody is shot, nobody is beheaded, no church is bombed and where no mosque is threatened, if they can guarantee one month, then we can begin to talk. So we must take this (ceasefire) with a lot of caution. But we hope whatever that must have brought this about, will further enhance our security. So, we are a bit excited about it but we are taking everything with a lot of caution,” he said.
Spokesman of the Joint Task Force, ‘Operation Restore Order’ in Borno State, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa said, conflicts are resolved through dialogue hence the declaration of ceasefire by the sect’s leader is a welcome development.
He, however, said that the JTF would still remain in at alert and continue to maintain law and order as well as protecting lives and properties of citizens in its area of operation.
Indeed, there might be need to exercise caution after all if the series of attacks unleashed on the polity by gunmen after the cease-fire were anything to go by.
Gunmen attack, kill security personnel in Maiduguri
Barely 24 hours after the Boko Haram sect announced a ceasefire, gunmen suspected to be of the sect on Tuesday morning attacked the patrol vehicle of a private security firm, Crown Security Guards, killing its personnel, Athanasus Sabo, near the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) main entrance.
Gunmen bomb police station, kill 2 in Kano
On Wednesday, January 30 gunmen bombed a Kano police station, killing a policeman and a civilian. “We lost a policeman in the attack and the body of a civilian was also found around the police station but it is still not clear if he was among the gunmen or a resident caught in cross fire, Kano State Police Spokesman, Magaji Majia said.
He said the terrorists stormed the police station in Bunkure town, which is 40 kilometres from Kano and engaged policemen in a shoot-out after hurling explosives into the police station, which destroyed a section of the building.
Police arrest BUK student for dropping IED
The Kano State Police Command said on January 31 that its men had arrested one Mohammed Kabir, a final year student of Bayero University (BUK), Kano, for being in possession of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
A statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) ASP Magaji Musa Majia, said Kabir as an indigene of Auchi in Edo State, was apprehended after he concealed in a bag of flour mixed with guinea corn peels, a remote controlled bomb and dropped it in a junction close to a popular GSM market at Farm centre in the city. A passer-by who noticed when Kabir, riding on a tricycle, dropped the lethal weapon, alerted the police.
According to the statement, “the police and the bomb disposal unit stormed the area and cordoned off the scene and discovered an IED concealed in a bag. The bomb was detonated without any injury to anybody or damage to property around. Subsequent investigations led to the arrest of one Mohammed Kabir, a level 400 student of Business Administration at BUK and lives adjacent to the scene.”
Armed men kill 5 policemen in Kaduna
Gunmen reportedly killed at least five policemen and a civilian in a midnight attack in Birnin Gwari, a town located over 100 kilometers m from Kaduna metropolis, Kaduna State January 31.
While some eyewitnesses said they counted about five bodies of policemen some police officers and an official in the Emir of Birnin Gwari’s palace claimed that only three police officers including a sergeant, died in the deadly attack.
Emir of Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Jibrin Mai Gwari, who reportedly disagreed with those linking the attack to Boko Haram because “no church or mosque is involved in this attack, but the Police Station and two banks were affected,” lamented that the last time he heard the kind of heavy bombardment to which his community was subjected in the wee hours of Thursday was during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70.
“The sound of thunderous heavy fire power is similar to that heard during the civil war as we heard heavy exchange of fire with policemen during the attack,” he said.
According to reports, the gunmen held Birnin Gwari under siege for over two hours – from around 1:30am. The bandits also planted IEDs that exploded simultaneously in addition to sporadic gun shots.
They completely burnt the Police Station, bombed their way into First Bank, Eco Bank and Unity Bank and carted away unspecified amount of money from the strong room.
… Kill 2 policemen in Gombe
Also in Gombe State, two policemen were killed at a check point near a Round -About within Gombe metropolis in the early hours of January 31 by unknown gunmen. A stray bullet from the assailant also wounded a crippled civilian passerby.
An eye witness told Vanguard in Gombe State that the two gunmen who wore long gowns also masked their faces.
He stated that the attackers emerged from a tricycle around 6:15 am and headed straight to the policemen at the checkpoint directly opposite Gombe Line Motor Park and shot them dead.
Gunmen kill six park rangers, February 6
Gunmen suspected to be members Boko Haram on February 6 killed at least six park rangers at in a reprisal attack after troops backed by helicopter gunships destroyed their base in a Nigerian game reserve on February 2.
Security forces last week killed 17 militants and lost a soldier while destroying two Boko Haram training camps in the North-east, one in a forest and one in the Sambisa Reserve.
The officer in charge of the Sambisa Reserve, Hassan Malgwi, said gunmen believed to be Boko Haram attacked the staff camp after midnight. “Six people were killed. Many of our members of staff are still missing as the camp is now deserted,” he said.
Gunmen Kill 13 health worker in Kano
On Friday February 8, gunmen shot and killed at least nine women who were taking part in a polio vaccination drive in Kano.
The first attack Friday morning happened in Kano’s Hotoro Hayi neighborhood and saw gunmen arrive by three-wheel taxis and open fire. At least eight female vaccinators died in that attack, witnesses said.
The second attack, in the Unguwa Uku neighborhood, saw another four people killed, witnesses said.
30 gunmen attack police station in Kano
Also on Friday night, Police officers repelled an attack by suspected terrorists on Minjibir Divisional station, 32km east of Kano city.
The assailants, numbering over 30, stormed the station at about 8.30 pm on motorcycles and tricycles and launched an offensive on the station.
The officers on duty responded gallantly in the ensuing firefight that lasted 45 minutes, as the windscreen of parked police vehicles and windows adorning the building were shattered. Vanguard gathered that although, there were no casualties, two fleeing suspects were arrested.
Attackers kill 3 North Korean doctors in Yobe
On Saturday February 9, assailants in Potiskum, a town in Yobe State killed three North Korean doctors, beheading one of the physicians.
6 bombers nabbed in Kaduna
Six suspected Boko Haram bombers, including a woman were arrested in Kaduna State on February 11 following a tip-off received in Kagoro town, near Kafanchan.
Sources said that the suspects were likely strategising on how to attack a location on Sunday in Kagoro or Kafanchan.
Gunmen kill district head in Borno
Also Suspected Boko Haram members shot and killed the District Head of Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State, Abba Ahmed on February 11on his way back to his palace after performing his prayers in a mosque.
Gunmen kill 1, injure 2 in Adamawa
On Thursday gun men stormed Abubakar Atiku Way near the Shopping Complex in Jimeta, Yola in Adamawa State and killed one man and left two others seriously injured.
According to the eyewitness, prior to the attack, the yet-to-be identified victim had engaged in a phone conversation with some people and seemed to be waiting for them to show up.
But not long after the phone conversation, three men on gown stormed the scene; one of them brought out a gun from his gown and shot the victim three times at close range and killed him instantly while two others at the scene sustained gunshot injuries.
Let’s sustain peace initiative – Borno elders
In spite of the latest attacks, elders and leaders of thought in Borno State said a mileage could be gained from the Boko Haram’s agreement to lay down arms if the peace process was sustained.
After a meeting in Maiduguri, Borno Elders Forum (BEF) under the leadership of Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno expressed pleasure over the announcement of ceasefire by Boko Haram and called on the Federal Government to sustain the peace process.
The meeting which took place at the residence of Monguno had in attendance, Brigadier General (Rtd) Abba Kyari, Ambassador Gaji Galtimari, Alhaji Umar Abba Shuwa, Alhaji Ali Kidaji, Alhaji Kyari Sandabe, Imam Idain of Borno Adam Asil Ibn Alsulusiyya, Ambassador Ahmad Yusufari, Alhaji Garba Satomi, DIG (Rtd) Abdullahi Shettima, Dr. Bulama Mali Gubio, Alhaji Gambo Gubio, Alhaji Zanna Lamin Mamadi, AIG (Rtd) Mukhtar Alkali and Alhaji Ibrahim Abba Gubio.
In a speech which was read by Dr. Bulama Mali Gubio, who is a retired head of service in Borno State, the elders described the ceasefire as a long awaited gesture that should receive the support and appreciation of all peace loving people.
“Our people have suffered enough. Enormous losses in terms of human lives, property and institutional set ups have occurred. We are therefore calling on all and sundry to encourage the peace process. We advise that cynicism and doubts should be set aside and positive attitude should be shown to encourage the sect to maintain this positive disposition.
“On the part of the Federal Government of Nigeria, we expect that they should embrace this positive opening and capitalize on it in order to open wider space for sustainable peace. The idea of whether it is a faction (that declared the ceasefire) or not should be discarded so that we can make progress. In this direction, we are calling on the government to without any delay commence the process of dialogue,” the elders said.
Origin of Boko Haram
Boko Haram, which figuratively means ‘Western education is sin’ was founded in 2002, in Maiduguri, by Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf. The sect opposes not only Western education, but Western culture and modern science as well. In a 2009 BBC interview, Yusuf stated that the belief that the world is a sphere is contrary to Islam and should be rejected, along with Darwinism and the theory that rain comes from water evaporated by the sun.
In 2004 it moved to Kanamma, Yobe State, where it set up a base called “Afghanistan”, used to attack nearby police outposts, killing police officers. Yusuf was hostile to democracy and the secular education system, vowing that “this war that is yet to start would continue for long” if the political and educational system was not changed.
In Bauchi, the group, which includes members who come from neighbouring Chad and speak only in Arabic was reported as refusing to mix with local people.
Clash with the state
In July 2009 the Nigerian police started investigating Boko Haram, following reports that the group was arming itself. Yusuf, the leader and others were arrested and on July 30, 2009 allegations were made that Yusuf himself was killed by Nigerian security forces after being taken into custody. The development invigorated deadly clashes with Nigerian security forces and attacks on churches, public institutions and military facilities among others which led to the deaths of an estimated 3000 people, according to Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika.
Prior to the clashes, many Muslim leaders and at least one military official had warned the authorities about Boko Haram. Those warnings were reportedly ignored. According to Human Rights Watch, between July and December 2010, at least 85 people were killed in some 35 separate attacks in four states in northern and central Nigeria, as well as in Abuja, the nation’s capital. Attacks attributed to Boko Haram in 2011 left at least 550 people dead in some 115 separate incidents. In the first nine months of 2012 alone, more than 815 people died in some 275 separate attacks in 12 northern and central states, and Abuja.
Among the litany of attacks include those of the United Nations Office, Abuja, Police Headquarters, Abuja, the building housing ThisDay Newspapers, Sun Newspapers and Daily Trust in Abuja, St Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, Deeper Life Church, Okene; Military Cantonment Jaji, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SAS) office and other numerous security facilities especially police stations. The security agencies also went on counter-offensive arresting, detaining and in many instances killing Boko Haram members and leaders.
Disturbed by the escalating violence many northern leaders and groups, including the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), urged government to dialogue with the group to end the killings.
Last November, the group gave the government conditions for ending the hostilities
Acclaimed spokesman of the group, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez in a tele-conference with journalists in Maiduguri stated that if the state and the Federal Government want the group to cease-fire completely, then former Borno state governor Ali Modu Sheriff must be arrested and prosecuted according to the laws of the land. He also said that the government should compensate the group and rebuild their places of worship which were destroyed during the 2009 uprising.
He pointed out that for a dialogue to take place, it must be through the following elders: Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno; Former Head of State General Muhammadu Buhari; former Yobe State Governor, Bukar Abba Ibrahim; Ambassador Gaji Galtimari and Barr Aisha Alkali Wakil and her husband, Barr, Alkali Wakil, insisting that the dialogue must not take place in Saudi Arabia.
Abu Abdulazeez also said that the group has mandated five members who are to mediate on their behalf; they include himself (Abu Mohammed Abdulazeez), Abu Abbas, Sheikh Ibrahim Yusuf, Sheikh Sani Kontogora and Mamman Nur.
Buhari later distanced himself from the group and the Federal Government said it could not negotiate with pre-conditions, thus the crisis was allowed to fester.
With the latest decision of the group to sheathe their sword, it is hoped that all stakeholders will play their required roles for normalcy to return to the country.