Following the ceasefire deal the Federal Government entered into with Boko Haram, the violent fundamentalist sect has split into two. While one faction wants peace, the other doesn’t.
It was gathered on Sunday that the Federal Government might have entered into the ceasefire with the faction interested in the cessation of hostilities in the North-East.
A reliable source in government told The PUNCH in Abuja that the leaders of the pro-peace faction of the sect , were the ones who took part in the negotiations with representatives of the Chadian, Cameroonian and Federal Government in Ndjamena, Chad last week.
Federal Government and Boko Haram representatives are expected to fine tune the details of the ceasefire at another meeting in Ndjamena on Tuesday.
Our source said he believed that the attacks on Shafa in Borno State and Sina, Adamawa State on Friday, could have been carried out by the faction not be interested in ending the violence.
He said “The Boko Haram faction that carried out the attack is the one that wants the insurgency to continue. It is made up of hardcore elements who believe their goal of imposing Sharia on the whole country has not been achieved and for them, the violence must continue until they win the war or perish in their quest.”
There had been reports of disagreements among the top members of the sect following the clamour by some of its commanders for an end to the insurgency.
A yet to be verified report had said that unknown sect members died a few weeks ago in a shoot-out between the pro-peace and the pro-Jihad factions.
The military is however keeping its side of the peace deal by suspending all hostilities against the insurgents,The PUNCH learnt.
This, according to a top military source, was a direct outcome of a directive issued by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
Badeh had on Friday ordered the suspension of all on-going aerial and ground offensives against the sect.
Our source, who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said the military did not consider the latest attacks as a violation of the ceasefire.
He explained that it was very likely that the operatives of the terrorist cells who carried out the attacks were not aware of the peace deal.
The source said, “One cannot say the peace deal has been violated; it is the nature of most terrorist organisations to act that way, and it should be expected because they have several layers of operation.
“They have such a long chain that it takes time for them to communicate with the top unlike the military where you are very quick communication channels.
“Another thing is that each of the cells operates independent of the other. So those who carried out the attacks in the villages in might not even be aware of the deal.”
He however explained that security forces would not allow the other faction to exploit the peace deal to violate the security and safety of the people.
It was learnt that while the security forces would not be on the offensive, sustained efforts would be made to prevent crimes from being committed against the people.
The PUNCH gathered from another source that the military had ensured the suspension of aerial and land offensive in compliance with the CDS’ directive to give peace a chance.
He said, “We will not be watching any violation of the security and safety of our people, we will not be on the offensive but we won’t allow crimes to be committed.
“The air operation is suspended for the duration of the ceasefire; we will not be on the offensive; we really need to comply with the peace agreement at least to give peace a chance.”
Investigations confirmed that soldiers have remained in their areas of deployment in the North-East.
Another security source warned that soldiers would be left with no option than to act if attacked.
He said while the troops fighting the terrorists learnt of the ceasefire from the media, they were awaiting briefing from their commanders.
He said, “This is ceasefire does not say pull back soldiers; so soldiers have not been pulled back. It is logical, if soldiers are attacked, they would fight back; they won’t sit and watch but soldiers have not gone for any operation since the ceasefire.”
Efforts to speak with the Director Defence Information, Maj. Gen Chris Olukolade,on the latest developments did not succeed as calls to his mobile telephone line did not connect.
But other sources in government said that the government was still expressing cautious optimism in its dealings with the sect.
This, it was learnt, was the reason behind its decision to refrain from making a categorical statement on the ceasefire since the news broke on Friday.
A top official, who pleaded anonymity, said the government has so far decided to keep a dignified silence to “see how the matter plays out during the week.
This, according to him, was the reason why the government was not surprised about the attacks after the ceasefire agreement became a public knowledge.
He said, “The government does not want to jump into the fray. It is true that discussions are ongoing but the government is watching the situation critically.
“The thinking is that once the process scales through, the government will make a public pronouncement.
“Hopefully, once the Tuesday meeting is successful, the government will talk. For now, we are watching events.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, did not yield result of the time of filing this report.
Sect captures another Borno town, beheads six
On Sunday, members of the sect captured another Borno community, Abadam, after laying siege to it.
They also beheaded six people along the Biu – Garkida Road in the state.
It was gathered from security sources that the insurgents, numbering 100, invaded Abadam on Friday night and took it over on Sunday morning.
They said the heavily armed terrorists arrived in the town in a convoy of about 50 Toyota Hilux vehicles and motorcycles.
They however did not give a casualty figure but a resident told journalists in Maiduguri on the telephone that he saw six corpses, including that of his friend, while fleeing the town.
He said, “Boko Haram gunmen entered Abadam on Friday night and shot at any resident in sight for almost two days until the early hours of Sunday when many of us started to flee to our farmlands, bushes and border areas of Bosso in Niger Republic.
“I escaped by crossing River Kumadugu to Diffa and from there, I boarded a bus to Damasak before arriving in Maiduguri today (Sunday).
“Among the people killed was my friend. My parents and other relations I believe are still in the bush and I do not know their state as I speak to you .”
The resident added that there was no security presence in the town throughout the period of the attack.
Another resident also told journalists that the sect members, as in other places they had captured, hoisted their black and white flag in three strategic locations in the community.
He lamented the possibility of the town, being declared an Islamic Caliphate.
Some communities in the state under the control of the sect are Dikwa, Gwoza, Marte, Damboa, Banki, Bama, Wulgo, Kirenowa.
Our correspondent in Borno State also gathered that the insurgents beheaded six people on the same road where the Emir of Gwoza, Idrissa Timta, was killed a few months ago.
The Executive Director of Stefanos Foundation, Mr. Mark Lipdo, said on Sunday that the terrorists left the bodies of the slaughtered victims lying on the road for a long time.
He said the son to one of the victims was injured by the insurgents when he attempted to remove his father’s body from the scene.
Lipdo said, “Information says in spite government ceasefire agreement with the insurgents, six innocent civilians were held hands bound and slauterered on the Biu Garkida Road of Borno State on Friday.”
The BringBackOurGirls group, has however asked the Federal Government to continue to secure lives and properties of Nigerians in the areas under Boko Haram attacks.
It also urged the government to maintain a delicate balance in its negotiation with the sect.
The spokesman of the group, Rotimi Olawale, said the government should have asked for the release some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls as a proof that the negotiation was being done with the real Boko Haram leadership.
Olawale said, “For us in the BringBackOurGirls, the government needs to maintain a delicate balance in its negotiation with Boko Haram because the recent statement credited to principal secretary to the President says the negotiation is still going on.
“I think they should continue to negotiate with Boko Haram on that platform and secure the release of all those abducted.
“The initial question would be, is the government negotiating with the right group? I don’t know, government needs to take necessary caution.
“For me, the first thing would have been for the group to release some of the girls, so that we can be assured that they are the right group.”
Senator cautions FG
The lawmaker representing Borno Central Senatorial District in the Senate, Ahmed Zannah, has advised the Federal Government to be cautious in implementing any ceasefire with Boko Haram.
Zannah, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Maiduguri on Sunday, said the government must exercise high level of wisdom and discretion in dealing with the issue.
He said, “I do not think it is true, because Boko Haram insurgents are still attacking communities in Borno. The insurgents attacked villages in both northern and southern Borno on Saturday.”
Zannah said if the ceasefire was real , the insurgents would not have attacked the villages.
When contacted, the Borno State Government declined comments on the issue.
However, a media associate of Governor Kashim Shettima, Isa Gusau, told journalists on Sunday that the governor had no comment on the issue.
He said, “Governor Kashim Shettima has no comment on the issue for now. Shettima, whose state has been at the centre of Boko Haram attacks since 2009, says he has no comment for now over the reports, but he will speak at the appropriate time.”