by: Yusuf Alli,
The Federal Government yesterday struck a deal with Boko Haram on ceasefire and freedom for the 219 secondary school girls abducted by the sect in Chibok, Borno State about six months ago.
The agreement was said to have been reached in Saudi Arabia.
As part of the deal, some key Boko Haram leaders may regain freedom anytime next week at the same time with the abducted Chibok girls.
The affected leaders might be moved from their detention facilities to designated locations in Chad on or before Monday.
But military and security agencies kept the swap deal under wraps last night to avoid what a source described as a “costly slip.”
According to the Defence Headquarters, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, announced the ceasefire at the end of a session between Nigeria and Cameroon on trans-border operation.
A tweet by DHQ said: “While closing the coordinating conference between Nigeria and Cameroon on trans-border military operations, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, informed the delegates that without any prejudice to the outcome of the three-day interactions and conclusions of the forum, a ceasefire agreement had been concluded between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Ahlul Sunna Li Daawa Wal Jihad.
“Accordingly, he directed the service chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development in the field.
“At the meeting was the Cameroonian Chief of Defence Staff, GCA Meka Rene Claude, leading his country’s military delegation. Service Chiefs and senior military officers also attended the event.”
Also, the Coordinator of the National Information Centre, Mike Omeri, who spoke alongside the spokesperson of the Defence Information unit, Chris Olukolade yesterday at a security briefing in Abuja, said President Goodluck Jonathan’s Principal Private Secretary, Hassan Tukur, met with the Boko Haram representative, Danladi Ahmadu and the president of Chad, Idris Deby in Saudi Arabia and have reached a ceasefire agreement.
He said the Chief of Defence Staff has reportedly ordered the service chiefs to comply with cease fire agreement.
“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 the 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 a similar vein declared a ceasefire”
“This is to assure Nigerians that the greater goal of this process is to ensure the return of nolmacy in the land, especially in parts of the country troubled by the activities of terrorists”
“President Jonathan’s commitment to peace and secuyrity 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,” he said.
A statement issued by Badeh on the ceasefire agreement during the coordinating conference on Nigeria –Camerooon Trans-Border Military Operations held at the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Abuja yesterday reads: “Without any prejudice to the outcome of our three-day interactions and the conclusions of this forum, I wish to inform this audience that a ceasefire agreement has been reached between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Jama’atul ahlul Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad.
“I have accordingly directed the Service Chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with the development in the field”
Boko Haram had not made a public statement at press time.
Reports by the Voice of America (VOA) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said the negotiation involved the Chadian President, Idris Deby, and some high-level officials of Nigeria and Cameroon.
The BBC quoted Mallam Hassan Tukur, the Principal Secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan, as saying: “They have assured us they have the girls and they will release them. I am cautiously optimistic.”
While the VOA said the girls might breathe freedom on Monday, BBC quoted Tukur claiming that “arrangements for their release would be finalised at another meeting next week in Ndjamena.”
A top military source said: “It is true that the government has entered into an agreement with the sect. Based on the political compromise, military and security agencies were advised to cease fire.
“We have asked all the military formations to abide by the decision of the government in the interest of all. This is a positive development.”
Asked if the military was part of the negotiation, the source added: “I think it was a political initiative, laden with diplomacy that aided military operations.”
Another source however added: “Typical of most wars, this insurgency is about ending at the negotiation table. This is a positive development for the nation.
“The military has welcomed it with cautious optimism.”
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the deal with Boko Haram sect actually began during the recent visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to Chad.
It was gathered that at the instance of President Idris Deby, the President had audience with some representatives of the sect.
At the session, it was gathered that some terms for the swap deal between the sect and some facilitators working for the Federal Government were discussed.
The Chad talks were said to have paved the way for the mileage gained by the facilitators of the dialogue with Boko Haram.
One of the sources privy to the negotiation said: “The swap deal gathered more momentum when the President visited Chad. This is why President Deby is playing a critical role in facilitating the conclusion of negotiation with Boko Haram.
“At a point, some of the negotiators asked that the military and security agencies be kept out of the deal.
“The overall gains have to do with the return of peace to the country, the North-East and the release of the Chibok girls.”
There were indications last night that some key Boko Haram commanders and coordinators might be released simultaneously with the girls.
A third source said: “Definitely, it is going to be a swap but it is too early to say how many commanders or Boko Haram members in detention might be released.
“Do not forget that the sect had demanded the release of 19 of its commanders, but the stake can still be higher.
“We are expecting that the swap might be simultaneous when the deal is sealed.”
The 19 Boko Haram commanders slated for the trade off are Awwal Albani Sultaniya; Mallam Abdullahi Damasak; Mallam Bashir; Baa Malam; Mallam Tijjani al Barnawi; Mallam Musa Moby; Mallam Awara; Mallam Zindar Zindawi; Baa Alhaji; Bana Mongono; Baraa Mallami; Sheikh Umar ibn Mustapha; Mallam Jabir Al Jjihad; Tanko al Kurd; Mallam Aradu; Abidina Janzila and Mallam Aboul Kaka.
Prior to the latest ceasefire agreement, there had been intense talks between Boko Haram and some facilitators of the Federal Government who were coordinated by the President, Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, Comrade Shehu Sani.
In September, the negotiation was witnessed by some officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The last talks in Abuja were attended by Shehu Sani; ICRC officials; a former Minister of Information; a Geneva-based Human Rights Activist; a two-man delegation of Boko Haram; two others close to the sect’s leadership; and a PDP leader.
As exclusively reported by The Nation, the two parties agreed to meet after the October 4 Eid-el-Kabir festival on the ceasefire terms to either finalise the agreement or part ways. The 219 girls were abducted on April 14 from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok.
After initial doubts on the abduction, the Federal Government raised a fact-finding panel. The Chairman of the Presidential Fact-Finding Committee on the Abduction of Chibok Girls, Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo (rtd), told President Goodluck Jonathan that the abduction was real, contrary to misinterpretation in some quarters.
He also said 276 students of the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok were abducted but 219 girls were unaccounted for as at the time of submitting the report.
He said 57 of the abducted students had been reunited with their families after escaping along the zigzag transport route taken by the insurgents.
The Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, yesterday said he had no comment yet over the reported ceasefire between the Federal Government and Boko Haram. He said he would speak at the appropriate time.
The governor spoke in a statement through his Special Adviser on Communication, Isa Gusau.
The statement reads: “Hundreds of journalists, local and international, have been making inquiries following widely circulated reports about a ceasefire over Boko Haram attacks. “Governor Kashim Shettima has no comment for now regarding the issue. He would make comments at an appropriate time.
“Governor Shettima has always believed in a tripartite approach that involves dialogue for peaceful resolution, military and economic strategies in addressing the Boko Haram problems, and he has been a strong advocate of these measures through his practical efforts and sustained public appeals at various fora, which was why he firmly supported the efforts initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan through the setting up of the Tanimu Turakiled committee on dialogue and peaceful resolution of security challenges in 2013, which worked actively and remained in force.
“Governor Shettima is permanently committed to all genuine efforts that would bring the insurgency to an end, especially given the fact that Borno State and its people have remained the worse hit by the unfortunate killings and destructions since 2009.”
by: Yusuf Alli,