A self-acclaimed commander of the Boko Haram sect in Maiduguri, Borno State, Sheikh Muhammed Abdulazeez, has announced a cease fire.
Sahara Reporters quoted the commander, described himself as a second-in-command to sect leader Abubakar Shekau, as disclosing this to journalists yesterday in Maiduguri.
Abdulazeez further claimed that there would be a ceasefire as the Borno State government had promised to release some sect members. He reportedly met with Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima yesterday.
While a government official later welcomed the announcement, soldiers and police still hunt Boko Haram members and violence continued unabated in the region.
Part of the commander's statement reads: "For sometime now, we the members of Jama'atu Ahlil Sunnati Lidaawati Wal Jihad 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 call a ceasefire. 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, were 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, 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 is to embrace the peace of dialogue."
According to the commander, the group has already started complying with the new resolution, and when it has done that, then government and security agencies can go ahead to arrest whoever they find carrying arms or killing people under the guise of Boko Haram.
He further said that the group was aware of the fact that some criminals had infiltrated its ranks and was hiding under its umbrella to continue attacking and killing people.
He added that the sect had also called on the government to fulfil its demands, which includes the immediate release of its members being detained across the country, and expressed the hope that, this time around, government would not betray the conditions of the truce "because we all know that it was because of the continued detentions of our members that this crisis continued for this long."
Abdulazeez further warned that "if government fails to meets the demands, then this conflict will never be brought to an end as we will never give government another chance."
On the speculations that there is splinter group in the sect, he said: "Of course, there is a faction within us, but the larger faction of our movement is the one in support of the ceasefire moves. Moreover, once top members of our group, including Imam Abubakar Shekau, are in support of the need for dialogue, other smaller factions can be dealt with easily."
The commander exonerated the group from the recent attacks and killings in Maiduguri, saying the onslaught was perpetrated by other criminals who hide under the sect's shadows to commit evil.
"Let me confirm to you that the recent assassinations of civilians were not carried out by us; rather some elements did so for their selfish interests but, God willing, the ceasefire we have declared will vindicate us.
"People should know that, henceforth, we should not be held responsible for a single bloodshed, rather government and its security operatives should conduct thorough investigation to fish out the perpetrators," he stressed.
It's a welcome development - Borno Govt
The Borno State government has hailed the ceasefire announced by the self-acclaimed commander of Boko Haram, describing it as a welcome development.
Speaking through its commissioner for information, Mr. Inuwa Bwala, in a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday, the state government said that dialogue was the best option to solve the insurgency in the country.
He said, "As a government, we maintain that dialogue remains the best option out of the crisis. If he offers ceasefire, it's a pleasant development, so that our people can sleep with two eyes closed. We thank God and everybody that was involved and obtained the ceasefire."
We'll study Boko Haram ceasefire conditions - FG
Meanwhile, the federal government has said that it will scrutinise the conditions given by the Boko Haram sect for its unilateral ceasefire before making any comment.
A top presidency official, who refused to be mentioned on the grounds that he was not authorised to speak on the matter, told LEADERSHIP yesterday that government was not in a haste to accept the sect's offer.
"From our experience," he said, "the sect is not reliable and their words cannot be taken on its face value. All facets of governmental apparatus would be consulted before a final decision is taken on the matter. We are not in a hurry to jump at their offer. But I can also tell you that government has not taken a formal position on the development."
He acknowledged that government was committed to dialogue, but noted that it would not negotiate with any group from a position of weakness, saying that proactive security measures would continue to be taken to safeguard the life and property of Nigerians.
JTF commends ceasefire decision
The JTF also yesterday commended to the ceasefire declared by a self-acclaimed Boko Haram commander through its spokesman Lt-Col. Sagir Musa.
He said: "Conflicts are resolved through dialogue. Hence, the declaration of ceasefire by the sect's leader is a welcome development. Be that as it may, the JTF will still remain at alert to continue maintaining law and order as well as protecting lives and properties of citizens in its area of operational responsibility."
FG beefs up security at Lagos airport over threat by Al Qaeda
Following the threat posed to the nation's security by the Mali crisis, security agencies at the country's apex airport yesterday met to strategize on how to protect the aviation industry from acts of terror.
The meeting held at the Lagos Airport was presided over by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) director-general, Dr. Harold Demuren, who stressed the need for security operatives to be on the alert to prevent any security breach around the airport.
According to Sam Adurogboye, media assistant to NCAA boss, those who attended the three-hour meeting were senior officials from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Air Force, Immigration, Customs, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) director of security and his team.
Others include officers from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the State Security Service, and NCAA aviation security team led by its director, Mr Joyce Nkem.
Gunmen Kill 8 in Borno
Gunmen on Sunday killed eight persons at Gajigana, a remote village in Magumeri Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno State, according to a news medium, Premium Times.
Some residents of the area told journalists in Maiduguri yesterday that the gunmen invaded the community in the early hours of the day to unleash the mayhem.
"About 20 gunmen invaded the village around 3am. The invaders divided themselves into groups before assaulting the villagers in different directions,"
A resident, Bulama Bukar. further claimed that "Eight persons were killed at the end of the attack."
Bukar added that five other persons were also injured during the attack.
The spokesperson of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on Operation Restore Order, Sagir Musa, confirmed the report.
"Information revealed that lives were lost during the attack but the exact number is yet to be ascertained now. Further details will be communicated as events unfold," Musa said.