by Isi Esene
The Federal Government is, as expected, expressing cautious optimism over the recent announcement of a ceasefire by a faction of the Boko Haram militant Islamic sect.
Its stance is apparently based on the fact that the sect had, at-least once before now, announced a ceasefire which it failed to honour.
The Federal Government position was made known yesterday by the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim while speaking with journalists on Tuesday at the opening of the 2013 seminar on National Security with the theme, Contemporary National Security Challenges: Policy Option, organised by the Alumni Association of the National Defence College, Abuja.
The Punch Newspapers reports it thus:
He said that while security chiefs were excited by the development, the olive branch offered by the sect called for caution.
Ibrahim said the government would only take the peace overture seriously if Boko Haram could ensure that attacks of whatever form did not take place for 30 days.
He stated that security operatives would wait for the period to see if no public place, security formation and place of worship was bombed before taking the sect seriously.
Ibrahim also said he was optimistic that the development would culminate in improved security in the country.
He said, “You see, we must treat that with a lot of caution. You understand, there are certain objective tests that will make sense. Let’s assume we can have a long period of about one month where no bomb explodes, where nobody is shot, where nobody is beheaded, where no church is bombed, where no mosque is threatened.
“If they can guarantee just one month, then we can begin to talk. You see we must take this with a lot of caution. That is what I am telling you.
“We hope whatever that must have brought about this will further enhance our security and it’s like a recognition of the very futile approach to solving whatever they consider to be their problems. So we are a bit excited by it but we are taking everything with a lot of caution.”
Boko Haram’s commander for Southern and Northern Borno, Muhammed Abdulazeez, had in a statement on Monday, said the sect resolved to stop its violence after a dialogue with the Government of Borno State in Maiduguri.
Abdulazeez urged all Boko Haram members to lay down their arms in honour of the declaration.
He said that the ceasefire had become necessary as a result of the hardship caused other Muslims and citizens of the North by the activities of the sect.
He stated that security operatives were free to arrest anybody found to be fomenting trouble after the perfection of the ceasefire deal.
Abdulazeez had said, “For sometime now, we the members of Jamaatul ahlil Boko Haram sunna lidawati wal jihad otherwise known as Boko Haram have recently had a meeting and dialogue with the government of Borno State where we resolved that given the prevailing situation, there is the need for us to cease fire.
“We, on our own, in the top hierarchy of our movement under the leadership of Imam Abubakar Shekau, as well as some of our notable followers agreed that our brethren in Islam, both women and children are suffering unnecessarily; hence we resolved that we should bring this crisis to an end.
“We therefore call on all those that identify themselves with us and our cause, to from today(Monday) lay down their arms. Let every member who hears this announcement relay it to the next member who hasn’t heard.
“We have met with the Borno State Government on two occasions and the fallout of the meeting was to cease fire.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in 2011 initiated a dialogue between the Federal Government and the sect.
Obasanjo had visited the family of the late leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, in Maiduguri, where he was received by the father-in-law of the leader, Babakura Fuggu.
Fuggu was killed a few days after Obasanjo’s visit.
In November last year, the sect named a former Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and six others to mediate between it and the government.
Meanwhile, the FCT Minister, Senator Mohammed, on Tuesday met with the FCT Police Commissioner; Director, Department of State Security; FCT Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps as well as representatives of Customs, Immigration and Prisons in his official residence in Abuja.
Others at the meeting convened by the minister over the rising number of illegal immigrants in the FCT were the FCT Permanent Secretary, Chairmen of the six Area Councils in the FCT, as well as top officials of the FCT Administration.
SUNDAY PUNCH had reported that two Nigerian affiliates of the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — Boko Haram and the Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina fi Biladis- Sudan — are planning major reprisal to protest Nigeria’s participation in Mali.
Nigeria has deployed forces in northern Mali to flush out the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups, who have taken control of the vast desert territory.
Security agents had said that the sects planned to protest Nigeria’s participation in the Mali war, and had therefore brought into the country, terrorists that may be used to carry out attacks on government installations and in kidnapping high-profile persons.
The FCT minister stated that the meeting was called to appraise the security situation in Abuja, adding that it was normal for the FCT Administration to take proactive measures to reduce any possibility of security breach in the territory.
He emphasised that the government would not want to be taken unawares as the security of lives and property remained important to the Federal Government.
The minister called for continued collaboration,and sharing of information with a view to ensuring synergy amongst all the security outfits in the FCT.
While reminding them of the constant need to share intelligence , Mohammed promised to support the security agencies by procuring new equipment to ease their operations.
He said, “Security agencies in the Federal Capital Territory should be on red alert to effectively take precautionary measures against any unforeseen circumstances. Residents are enjoined to be vigilant and report any suspicious movement to the security agents.”
The NIS could however not be reached for comments on the alleged influx of immigrants into the FCT as its new public relations officer, Ekpedeme King, could not be reached on the phone.
He did not respond to a text message sent to his phone.
The Federal Government’s military intervention in the Malian crisis was part of the moves to solve the terrorism problem in the country, which is believed to have foreign backing.
Speaking also on the crisis in Mali, the CDS, stated that Nigerian troops were performing very well in their peacekeeping operations in the embattled francophone country.
He said that things were moving very fast in Mali and commended Western powers such as France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and the African Union for the support they gave to ECOWAS in the challenge to free Northern Mali from the grip of terrorists.