Nigeria, Boko Haram Talks: All Options Are Open-Mike Omeri

Nigeria, Boko Haram Talks: All Options Are Open-Mike Omeri

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 1:24 pm

Mike Omeri

Mike Omeri, director-general, National Orientation Agency and coordinator of National Information Centre, a platform through which government regularly passes information on developments in the war against terrorism, spoke to AYORINDE OLUOKUN on doubts being expressed on the ceasefire deal between Nigerian government and Haram insurgents

Q: What is the update on government efforts to provide security for its citizens, especially in ensuring the Boko Haram insurgency becomes history in Nigeria?
The government and its agencies have decided since the incident started that it is a matter of high priority to ensure that citizens of Nigeria wherever they may be are not just given protection, but they are given security and their welfare and well-being promoted. That posture of government is still prevailing. If anything, at a higher level of disposition, to ensure that the girls of Chibok abducted by the insurgents are returned to us as Nigerians, as their parents, as their relations, and so on. And towards this end, all assets and security apparatuses of Nigeria have been deployed to the fight against insurgency and towards the rescue of the girls. As recent as last week, there was an offer of ceasefire which came through the government and President of Chad, Idris Derby. And I am told that the insurgents approached him to intermediate between them and government of Nigeria for the purpose of securing peace and that some of them wanted to go back to their normal businesses and so on. And the government of Nigeria responded by first ascertaining the veracity of their claims and the willingness to discuss, and what the impact of the ceasefire would be. Part of the understanding is that we would know the state of being of the girls who are hostages in their custody and of course, subsequently, we will also discuss how to get them released. This much was the understanding. And to demonstrate good faith, some of the hostages in the custody of the people we were talking with were released in Cameroon.
So, we are hopeful that subsequent discussion will produce a similar hostage release as it happened two weeks ago and in this case, with the Nigerians girls involved. A delegation from Nigeria has gone to Chad to continue the discussion. So we are waiting for the outcome.
There have been doubts about government talking to the real representative of the group, especially given the violation of the ceasefire…
Well, government is saying, ‘This is what we are doing.’ And you are seeing them in real life saying, ‘This is what we are doing.’ But you are still expressing doubts based on mere speculations? And this is what we want to believe?
Well, because some of those expressing the doubts are those who equally claim to have access to leadership of the sect…
Well, if they have access, when the Committee on Dialogue was going on, they were asked to name people who will negotiate; those people never mentioned them. If they have access and they are speaking on behalf of the sect and the sect wanted them to speak for them, they would have said these are the people we wanted to speak for us.
But knowing that these people are here, then they (Boko Haram) left them and went to Chad, don’t you think something is wrong somewhere?
Maybe there are various groups within the sect and they have control of some of them that they are talking to. But what I want to say clearly here is that the President of a whole country cannot afford a hoodwinking situation – a situation in which some people will come and hoodwink him and he will also invite another President to come and be hoodwinked. Let us wait for the outcome, let us wait for the processes that have commenced. This is not something that started yesterday. It is an ongoing situation that lasted close to a month with those people before we were contacted. So we have a responsibility to brief the citizens of Nigeria and tell them the truth about what we know and what is happening. So people should discount rumours, not cast doubts and confusion in the minds of people. So those who are saying what they are saying know why they are saying what they are saying. We have evidence; you can go to VOA and listen to the man’s conversation with the representative of Boko Haram,s who also confirmed what we are saying.
Those who are doubting the genuineness of the talks are saying the public face of Boko Haram is Abubakar Shekau and that if he is the one that came out to confirm that the sect is in talks with government, then there will be no grounds for such doubts…
So, those doubting now are deciding for the sect how they should operate, they are deciding for the sect who should speak for them? That question they should go and ask the sect, not government. We would not be proving our own side and also proving their own side for them. Secondly, the man himself didn’t say he is the head of the sect. He didn’t say he is the commander-in-chief. He said he is the chief security officer and that he is conveying a message from the leadership of Boko Haram. That is what the man said. He didn’t say he is the leader. He didn’t say he is the chief negotiator. He said, ‘I am the chief security officer within the group, I take message and I deliver message as well.’ The man has said clearly who he is and this man has clearly met with the representatives of the Nigerian government, representative of the Chadian government himself. He is not a ghost. What we will do is to await the outcome of the process that has started. If it is false, you will know, if it is true, you will know. There are many negotiations that have started in other places in the world over hostages which have experienced bogus claims or dead ends even when the people are genuine. But in this situation, our conversation around the subject matter is ongoing. Our people are involved and we brief the public from time to time when it becomes necessary to do so.
Why is government open to negotiations with Boko Haram now when in the past it insisted that it was not ready to consider such option, especially at this time when it seemed the military is having the upper hand in the war against the insurgents?

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