The recent split in the ranks of the Boko Haram terrorist group evidenced by a sharp division over a ceasefire has been attributed to the work of a recent peace initiative spearheaded by the Northern States Governors’ Forum, NSGF.
It was learnt yesterday that the peace initiative had involved a delegation from the forum meeting with the second-in-command of the Boko Haram group, and may have also opened way for the proposed presidential visit to Maiduguri, Borno State, scheduled for tomorrow.
The initiative had been led by the Committee on Reconciliation, Healing and Security headed by a former Director-General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim.
It also recommended a comprehensive amnesty for the combatants and rehabilitation of all those affected by the crisis.
It was learnt that the committee had written the chairman of NSGF and Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, giving details on the process that led to the ceasefire declaration, which has now been rebutted by the acclaimed leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau.
Ambassador Ibrahim was quoted in a letter dispatched to Governor Aliyu, yesterday, and which gave an account of the visit to Borno and Yobe states by a sub-committee of the main committee having said: “In Maiduguri, the Committee was able to meet with some people strongly believed to be members of the sect, and had very useful discussions with them which culminated into the offer for ceasefire and subsequent press briefing by the leader, which has given rise to the confidence building that culminated in the visitation by the Chief of Defence Staff and other security chiefs, the Vice President and 10 All Progressive Congress, APC, governors.
“The meeting was held at the Government House, Maiduguri, where useful and important critical issues were discussed and at the end they vowed to cease hostilities and are prepared to surrender themselves and their weapons.
“During the discussions, the leader of the group, who is second-in-command to Imam Shekau, promised to meet and convince him to publicly renounce hostilities and also designate a place of his choice for further discussions and negotiations with the Federal Government.
“They also dissociated themselves from other criminal groups that perpetrate all sorts of atrocities in the name of Boko Haram for various selfish reasons, and promised to assist authorities in fishing out all such perpetrators of criminal acts.
“Having agreed to cease hostilities, they also made certain demands: That all detainees against whom a case of criminal involvement was established should be prosecuted by courts of competent jurisdiction.
“Conversely, all those against whom there is no evidence of criminal involvement should be released unconditionally;
“An area should be designated for all combatants to voluntarily surrender themselves and their weapons without fear of harassment or molestations.”
They recommended that the committee should make further visits to Borno and Yobe States and meet with this group and other groups that have indicated their willingness to be part of the peace process. These discussions, they said, should be in conjunction with the governors and the Elders’ Forum in each state.
They also recommended that the President visited Borno, Yobe and Kano States and go beyond meeting the state governments alone and also meet with a cross-section of the elders of the community.
“We also recommend that the President should declare a general and unconditional amnesty; order the immediate release of all detainees against whom there is no established case of criminal involvement, and the immediate prosecution of those against whom there is evidence of criminal involvement, before courts of competent jurisdictions.”
Other recommendations are that the protracted court case against the suspected killers of Mohammed Yusuf should be brought to a quick determination; the Federal Government consider the rehabilitating the combatants and also compensation for those who have suffered in one way or the other during the period as a sign of goodwill and national cohesion; and some of the northern governors should accompany the President on his visit to the states.