Sunday, October 19, 2014 7:50 am
Nigeria may have been hoodwinked again by a confidence trickster over a so-called ceasefire deals with Boko Haram.
With doubts already triggered by a deal that did not feature Abubakar Shekau, the Boko Haram leader, or address how to free Nigerian towns and villages still under Boko Haram Islamic Caliphate, militants of the sect most certainly responded with a cascade of attacks between Friday and Saturday to prove a point: that they are not part of any ceasefire deal.
Nigeria’s armed forces chief Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced the ceasefire on Friday.
Who then did Nigeria agree a truce with? Or was it done for TAN effect, to give the right ambience for an Abuja rally of a Jonathan group, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria: that progress was being made on tackling insurgency, the nation’s most problematic issue as 2015 elections draw near?
Or what better interpretation can be accorded a peace deal that was shredded in less than 24 hours by militants of the sect, with no fewer than five deadly attacks that have claimed dozens of lives?
It started with the insurgents attacking the village of Abadam on Friday night, killing at least one person and ransacking homes, while another assault on the village of Dzur on Saturday morning left at least eight people dead.
Three other attacks in Adamawa state on Saturday killed dozens of people, witnesses and a local politician told Reuters news agency.
“I was just boarding a bus when the gunshots started,” Adams Mishelia, who was in the adjacent town of Shaffa, said of the Dzur attack. “People were fleeing into the bush, so I got off the bus and headed to the bush too. I later learned they slaughtered eight people.”
A security source confirmed that attack and the assault on Abadam the night before. Mohammed Bulama, a resident of the main northeastern city of Maiduguri, told Reuters he lost his uncle in the Abadam attack. Other casualties there were unclear.
On Saturday suspected insurgents also attacked three small towns in Michika local government area in Adamawa state.
“Dozens of people are being killed and houses are being burnt by the insurgents, so what is the meaning of the ceasefire government is talking about?” said Adamu Kamale, a state government lawmaker.
When asked about the violence, government spokesman Mike Omeri said by telephone that “the Boko Haram people have also said that some attacks are not undertaken by them”.
Nigeria, nevertheless hangs on to its ceasefire deal, believing it had struck an agreement with the right people, a secretary-general of Boko Haram , who said he had never met Shekau.
“Discussions will continue in Chad next week, and on the basis of those discussions we’ll have more details,” on how the girls will be released, Omeri said.
The second government source said: “We are negotiating with considerable caution. Boko Haram has grown into such an amorphous entity that any splinter group could come up disowning the deal. (But) we believe we are talking to the right people.”
The talks were held with a formerly unknown ‘militant’ called Danladi Ahmadu, who says he is the group’s “secretary-general”.
The announcement of the truce came a day before a rally of supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja attended by his vice president, Namadi Sambo, although an expected announcement of Jonathan’s candidacy for February 2015 elections did not materialise during the rally.
Boko Haram has also not yet commented on the reported truce. The group’s sole means of conveying messages is via videotaped speeches by a man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, its leader whom the military last year said it had killed.
A history of abortive government attempts at truce deals with Boko Haram and military claims to have rescued some girls that proved false, mean Nigerians are likely to continue to greet the newly reported breakthrough with scepticism.
By Tuesday, it will become crystal clear, if Nigeria has a deal or not whether it has been defrauded by Danladi Ahmadu and his Chadian collaborators when the 219 girls in Boko Haram captivity are freed.
The schoolgirls’ abduction stunned the world, spurred a global Twitter campaign to get them rescued and heaped pressure on Jonathan’s administration to do more to protect civilians in the northeast where Boko Haram’s insurgency is focused.
Since the girls’ kidnapping, the Nigerian military has twice asserted that it rescued some or all of the girls, only to have to backtrack hours later.
Boko Haram, whose name translates roughly as “Western education is sinful”, has massacred thousands in a struggle to carve an Islamic state out of religiously mixed Nigeria, whose southern half is mainly Christian in faith.