Nigeria: Army to Test Boko Haram Ceasefire

Abuja, Kaduna — Military authorities are subjecting the ceasefire declared by Boko Haram to a one-month test to see if there is no attack within the period, Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim has said.

Ibrahim, who spoke to journalists in Abuja, said if the sect could give a one-month guarantee of peace then authorities would consider talking to them.

“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. Where 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,” he said shortly after opening a two-day seminar on national security at the National Defence College.

“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.”

On Monday, a purported second-in-command to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau physically appeared before journalists at a location in Maiduguri and declared a ceasefire.

Sheikh Mohammed Abdulazeez Ibn Idris, who also called for the release of detained members of the group, said his announcement followed extensive deliberations between the sect and officials of the Borno State government.

Local sources say he is a sect member, but it is unclear if he really is speaking on behalf of Shekau, or whether he represents a faction in the Jama’atu Ahlil Sunna Lidda’awati wal Jihad.

In separate reactions in Kaduna yesterday, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam and the Arewa Consultative Forum welcomed the peace offer and urged the Federal Government to use the opportunity to begin dialogue with the sect.

Secretary-general of JNI Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, in a statement, said government should grab the opportunity because this could help end the uprising.

“JNI under the leadership of His Eminence, Alhaji (Dr) Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, considers the ceasefire proposal by a faction of Boko Haram as a welcome development and an opportunity which should be fully utilized by the government,” the statement said.

“It therefore calls on the government to shun all negative and counter comments that it should not dialogue with the group, what matters is the declaration of the ceasefire, as there are many factions of MEND which the government dialogued with, in the past.

“It is based on these facts that the JNI calls on the government to use this medium and dialogue with the group, so that peace and security will return to the north-east, north-west in particular and Nigeria in general.”

Earlier in an interview with Daily Trust, the JNI scribe said: “I think this is just the beginning of the dialogue…. It is an offer that the government should not turn down. I also think it is an offer for the beginning of proper dialogue for the ceasefire and for lasting peace and restoration of order.”

He added: “Whenever you see a light, try to exploit it. We should not just lose hope but rather hope it will become a reality.”

For its part, ACF said all patriotic Nigerians should welcome the ceasefire and pursue constructive dialogue.

“If leaders of Boko Haram are truly desirous of constructive dialogue with the Nigerian authorities but afraid of being arrested or killed, they should approach any country of their choice which has diplomatic relationship with Nigeria to play some mediatory roles in the ensuing dialogue,” ACF spokesman Anthony Sani told Daily Trust.

“Once such a country agrees to play some roles, it would be left for the government of such country to approach the Nigerian government for effect.”

‘Let Shekau speak’

But Malam Shehu Sani, who was involved in former president Obasanjo’s botched peace efforts in 2011, said there was need to hear from Shekau before the ceasefire could be taken seriously.

“I am not doubting the authenticity of those people, but I don’t believe that there is a ceasefire until actually I hear from the leader of the group confirming the ceasefire,” said Sani, who is president of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria.

He added: “We have been through it before where the people make move for the ceasefire and then at the end of the day it turns out to be a mishap. But if the declaration is made by the leader of the group, it cannot be denied or doubted by anyone later.

“The last time there was this claim of a ceasefire which at the end of the day changed the method of the violence. So in order to avoid raising this kind of fake hope, I think we need to hear from the leader of the group to ascertain the veracity of this.”

Sani said also that ceasefire can only work if the government demonstrates willingness to accept the demands of the sect.

Misbahu Bashir, Ismail Mudashir, Christiana Alabi and Maryam Ahmadu-Suka