By Jide Ajani, Johnbosco Agbakwuru and Ndahi Marama
Barely 24 hours after the Federal Government and Boko Haram brokered a ceasefire deal on the Islamist group’s terror campaign in the North-east, an attack, suspected to have been carried by the sect, yesterday, left eight dead.
The attack took place around the hilly communities of Dzur in Hawul Local Government Area of Borno State.
In an earlier development, suspected Boko Haram insurgents, Friday evening, killed 10 persons in an attack in Malamfatori, the headquarters of Abadam Local Government Area of Borno State, bringing the number of people killed in the two attacks at the weekend to 18.
Federal Government officials were, yesterday, unwilling to comment on the attacks amid the truce talks.
However, one of the officials, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, said: ”Our attitude is simply wait and see.”
Meanwhile, sources said that the alleged killing of the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, and the attendant effect on the operations of the group may have forced it to negotiate with government.
It was equally learnt that President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid may have played a role in the latest efforts to resolve the Nigeria–Boko Haram conflict.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that government’s calculation was that the resolution of the Boko Haram insurgency would be viewed favourably by Nigerians to Jonathan ahead of his declaration for second time.
The release of the more than 200 students from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, kidnapped by Boko Haram in April, more than 180 days ago, also featured prominently on the truce talks held in Saudi Arabia.
The eight persons killed in yesterday’s attack around the Borno hilly communities included motorists and passengers whose vehicles were reportedly ambushed by insurgents.
Dzur is a mountainous community harbouring terrorist camps along the Biu- Garkida- Gombi- Yola road where the late Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idrissa Timta, and some other people were ambushed and killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen early this year.
Just two weeks ago, some insurgents stormed Shaffa community, about 10 kilometres from Azare, the council headquarters, and killed over 20 people including a pastor of Living Faith Church, Eluid Gwamna Mshelizza, who was slaughtered on his way to his house after delivering a sermon at about 10pm in the community.
In that attack, no fewer than six churches were razed while several houses and shops all belonging to Christians were looted and destroyed.
A motorist, who narrowly escaped yesterday’s attack, Mallam Yakubu Ali Biu, told our correspondent that the assailants, numbering over 50, armed with rifles and rocket propelled launchers, barricaded the highway and opened fire on motorists and passengers from Biu to Yola, which led to the killing of eight persons while many others sustained gunshot injuries.
On how he escaped, he said, ” My brother, it is by the grace of God that I and some passengers survived. I was coming from Biu to Gombi when I sighted motorists running into the bush and in different directions. I began to hear sound of gunshots. I quickly made a U-turn back to Biu. A taxi driver who overtook me on the road around Tashan Alade was among the victims”.
A residents of neighbouring Shaffa community, Mr. Mwajim Anjili Balami, told our correspondent on phone in Maiduguri that the insurgents came through Kwokshar village and were trying to enter Shaffa.
“As I am talking to you now, residents have run away from Shaffa because of lack of security presence. Our local hunters and vigilante groups tried to resist the attack, but they were overwhelmed.”
The 10 people reportedly killed by gunmen in Malamfatori, Abadam local government area, on Friday, were said to have included a brother to a Director in the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation in Borno State.
Abadam is north and borders Niger and Chad Republic, about 270 kilometres from Maiduguri.
Sources told Sunday Vanguard that the insurgents, numbering over 100, were fleeing from Marge, Monguno and Dikwa axis towards the Lake Chad basin when they were confronted by vigilante youth, a situation which forced them to open fire on residents killing 10 and leaving over 30 others with gunshot injuries.
A resident who lost a brother said the incident took place at about 5pm on Friday.
Efforts to contact Borno State police Public Relations Officer, DSP Gideon Jubrin, were unsuccessful as his phone lines were not reachable, but a security source confirmed the attack.
Sunday Vanguard was informed, yesterday, that the death of Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, “forced its upper cadre to reach out to President Idris Deby Itno of Chad to help it enter into truce with the Nigerian authorities.”
Also, it was learnt that the pounding of the group’s bases in some parts of the North East, coupled with its losses on the field, played a role in the deal.
In fact, during negotiations, one of those who spoke for the insurgents was said to have explained that some of the terror acts attributed to Boko Haram were not its handiwork but that it appropriated and claimed them because it instilled fear in the people.
Sources also said the continued abduction of the Chibok girls had made it very impossible for President Jonathan to be seen making statements regarding his re-election.
“There was no way he could have come out to talk about his re-election when the girls were still in captivity”, a presidential source said.
“The President himself was more or less a hostage to the entire situation.
“Now that the release of the girls is imminent, the pace of activities regarding the President’s re-election would be revved”.
In a related development, the senator representing Borno Central, the hot-bed of Boko Haram attacks, Ahmed Zana, when contacted to react to the ceasefire agreement, yesterday, said he had no comment as he would watch unfolding events.
Another Borno senator, Ali Ndome, representing Borno North, said though he was not aware of such agreement or cease fire, what was important to him was the release of the abducted Chibok girls and in good health.