By Emeka Mamah, Soni Daniel, Ben Agande, Emma Ujah, Kingley Omonobi, Emman Ovuakporie, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, & Adekunle Aliyu with agency report
The Nigerian Government yesterday said it has reached a ceasefire deal with the Boko Haram sect to halt all confrontations with the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex issuing a directive to the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Airforce and Inspector General of Police to comply with the ceasefire agreement in all theatres of operations.
In a telephone chat with Saturday Vanguard, Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade confirmed that the Chief of Defence Staff’s directive to service chiefs to respect the ceasefire agreement has been received at the various services headquarters.
The deal was also confirmed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe yesterday.
The Voice of America VoA had quoted President Goodluck Jonathan’s Principal Private Secretary, Ambassador Hassan Tukur as disclosing the breakthrough.
He spoke to the VoA in Saudi Arabia where the talks which were brokered by officials of Chad and Cameroon were taking place. According to the international radio, a man, Danladi Ahmadu who said that he was the Secretary-General of Boko Haram, told VOA on Thursday that the Chibok girls were “in good condition and unharmed.”
The report said that Boko Haram did not elaborate on the conditions under which the girls would be freed and that authorities of Saudi Arabia were not involved in the negotiations.
Following the development, hope rose last night on the possibility of the release of the over 200 girls, who were seized from a school in Chibok, Borno State last April.
Speaking to Saturday Vanguard, Okupe pointed out that a ceasefire deal had indeed been agreed by the two parties but did not say when the girls would be released to their agonising parents, who have been looking forward to reuniting with them since April 14 this year.
Okupe, who said the deal, was for a unilateral ceasefire by the Nigerian military and the Boko Haram insurgents, pointed out that the issues agreed upon would go through a process.
But he made it clear that in response to the agreement, the Nigerian army had stopped fighting the insurgents just as the sect had agreed to lay down their arms.
“There are some concessions that the Federal has agreed with the sect but I am not going to mention them. But we want cessation of insurgency and the safe return of the Chibok girls. We are on the path of achieving these,” Okupe said.
Asked why it took so long for the Federal Government to dialogue with the sect, the presidential aide pointed out that peace deal in any part of the world takes time and that Nigeria could not have been different.
Information had it that in another development, Nigerian officials met with Chadian Government officials as well as representatives of the Boko Haram sect in N’Djamena, Chad on Friday morning and that securing the release of the 219 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram was top on the agenda of the negotiations.
The cease-fire is expected to result in the release of the remaining 219 Chibok female students abducted from their school six months ago and indeed girls and women abducted from other communities in the course of the five-year deadly insurgency, said to have claimed over 12,000 lives.
THE COORDINATOR, NATIONAL INFORMATION CENTRE (NIC)/DIRECTOR – GENERAL, NATIONAL ORIENTATION AGENCY (NOA), MIKE OMERI, OFR yesterday released a statement AT THE NATIONAL BRIEFING CENTRE, GARKI, ABUJA. His release was titled
UPDATE ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR IN THE COUNTRY and read thus:
We can confirm to you that there have been contacts between the government and representatives of Boko Haram.
The discussions are essentially in relation to the general insecurity in the North East and also the need to rescue all captives of the terrorists, including the students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok.
From the discussions, they indicated their desire for and willingness to discuss and resolve all associated issues.
They also assured that the school girls and all other people in their captivity are all alive and well.
Already, the terrorists have announced a ceasefire in furtherance of their desire for peace. In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in similar vein, declared a ceasefire.
Finally, this is to assure Nigerians that the greater goal of this process is to ensure the return of normalcy in the land, especially in parts of the country troubled by the activities of terrorists. President Jonathan’s commitment to peace and security in Nigeria and indeed, all parts of the world has been the driving force of all engagements and measures taken since the war on terror began in the country.
Cameroun kill 107 insurgents
Meanwhile, agency reports from Yaoundé – Cameroon said yesterday that Cameroun’s army killed 107 Boko Haram fighters in ferocious fighting this week in its north, in a claimed success against the Nigeria-based Islamist guerrilla group.
The “fighting of rare violence” occurred in two areas in the north on Wednesday and Thursday and also resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers, the defence ministry said in a statement read on state radio.
It was not possible to independently verify the information or the toll.
In April, dozens of Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in the remote north-eastern village of Borneo State, kidnapping around 270 girls. Reports said 57 of them escaped.
Boko Haram leader, Sheik Abubakar Shekau later threatened to sell the remainder as slave brides, vowing that they would not be released until Boko Haram terrorists captured by troops were freed from jail.
President Jonathan has been criticized at home and abroad for his slow response to the kidnapping and for the inability of Nigerian troops to quell the violence by the militants, seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top economy and leading energy producer.
The Federal Government had set up a panel on security challenges in the North-East zone, even as it resolved not to engage members of the Boko Haram sect in any form of dialogue as it was a faceless group.
President Jonathan had repeatedly given reasons for the refusal of his administration to dialogue with the insurgents saying that it was difficult to dialogue with spirits or faceless groups whose leaders were not known.
Members of the House of Representatives yesterday, in one voice, declared that the ceasefire by the Federal Government after negotiations with Boko Haram sect was a welcome development.
One of the lawmakers,Deputy Chairman House committee on Legislative Outreach, Rep Pally Iriase, APC, Edo said”we had warned from day one that this issue should not be treated with kid gloves and that it should not be used as a tool to score political point.
“But we thank God for this encouraging development which has led to this ceasefire, we hope it remains as the delay had led to the death of many innocent Nigerians”.“We’ve longed for peace and the wasted lives could have been avoided if government had been assertive from day one”. Speaking almost in the same vein, Chairman House committee on Ethics and Anti-Corruption Rep Abiodun Faleke, APC, Lagos described it as a fine development that Nigerians had fervently prayed for.
“This is what we advised them to do before. To negotiate. It is sad that after six months and loss of many lives, FG now wishes to negotiate”.
Also Deputy Chairman House committee on Sports, Rep Ayo Omidiran described it as a heart gladdening news to all Nigerians.
She said “Great news. I hope it will be sustained’.
Senator Ali Ndome representing Borno North while reacting to the agreement between the government and the Boko Haram said though he was not aware of such agreement or cease fire, what was important to him was to ensure that the abducted Chibok School girls were released and in good health.
Also reacting to what people have described as cheering news, Senator Kabir Marafa representing Zamfara Central on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, said that it was a welcome development as it would afford those behind Boko Haram to come out and disclose their grievances.
Senator Marafa who said that it was not a new thing for Government and the Boko Haram sect announcing that they have reached a truce, noted that President Goodluck Jonathan had for a long time been calling on the Boko Haram to embrace the path of dialogue.
Besides, Senator Marafa who is the Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources, Upstream said that the National Assembly as an institution had appealed to the sect to sheathe their swords, come out and make bare their grievances and demands as well as those behind them.
He however, said that there was no sacrifice to ensure that there was peace especially in the three troubled states of North East zone that was too in as much as it would end what he called senseless killing.
According to him, “The National Assembly as an institution has been calling them to come out and make their demands, the Presidency has been calling them to state their problems even the common people have pleaded with them to stop the senseless killings.
“Whatever thing anybody can do to bring peace is welcome. It is only when they (Boko Haram) come out to say this is what they are, this is what they want, then, you will be able to assess what they want whether they are possible to implement. It is what they say that they want that will make people assess them.“
It is a welcome development, Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, member representing Etche/Omuma federal constituency
I am happy a truce has been agreed on. Outside the preservation of our sovereign state, the primary responsibility of the federal government is to protect lives and property. Within this context, I believe that Nigeria has done well to secure a ceasefire. At least, both sides have the opportunity to engage in fruitful deliberations, have the opportunity to try and lay the foundation for lasting understanding and peace. At least, the people who reside in the background areas would heave sighs of relief. If it were for this alone, we should be happy as Nigerians.
My thinking is that we have work to do. We must build on the fragile peace we have built and put an end to what has become the greatest threat to national security.
BBOG campaign group reacts
The Bring Back Our Girls, BBOG campaign group yesterday welcomed the news of a ceasefire in the troubled Northeast urging the Federal Government to use the window to ensure the release of the Chibok school girls and all others captured by the Islamist group, Boko Haram.
The leaders of the group in a joint statement said they would not give up their campaign until all Chibok girls were returned safe and alive.
The statement was endorsed by Hadiza Bala Usman, Maryam Uwais, Saudatu Mahdi and Obiageli EZekwesili.
The group said:
“Local and International News Media have been agog with news that the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Boko Haram Sect have reached a cease fire, which also includes the release of the 219 abducted Chibok girls. While we await official confirmation from our President over this development, we are extremely anxious but cautiously optimistic that the abducted Chibok girls will be released swiftly or at least in a matter of days.”