Tuesday, October 28, 2014 12:39 pm
With militants of the Boko Haram sect stepping up their campaign against Nigeria, even kidnapping about 60 new women, analysts dismiss as fraud, the ceasefire Nigerian officials claim to have struck with representatives of the sect
Representatives of Nigerian government, led by Ambassador Hassan Tukur, the principal secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan, were for the better part of last week holed up in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, in continuation of peace talks with the insurgent Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad, better known as Boko Haram. The talks with the group whose insurgency has claimed over 13,000 lives in about six years was claimed to have been brokered by Idris Deby, the President of Chad, and had actually been on for several weeks before Nigerians were told penultimate Friday. And though snippets of the talks were slipping to the country from far away N’djamena, the initiative was yet to yield its biggest promise – the release of the over 200 kidnapped girls in the custody of the insurgents – as at the time of writing this story last week.
The news of the ceasefire deal has raised hopes of the girls’ parents that a reunion was imminent. Earlier reports had indicated that some of the girls would be released between Monday and Tuesday last week. Though government has confirmed that return of the girls to their parents is a key point of negotiation with the insurgents, it however denied giving a specific timeframe for it.
Tukur, who led the talks which took place in Saudi Arabia and N’djamena, had told local and international radio stations that the Boko Haram representative at the talks assured that the 219 Chibok schoolgirls were in their custody, ‘scattered over West Africa”, and that they would be released. The presidential aide, who said he was cautiously optimistic about the promise from the insurgents, added that arrangements for the release of the girls would be finalised at N’djamena last week. For the parents, who have been left grappling with agonising imaginations of the ordeals their children are going through in the hands of their abductors in the past six months, the government couldn’t act fast enough. “I don’t even know anything about it again. They have been saying something will be done either [on] Monday or Tuesday and today is Wednesday. We are waiting,” Mark Enoch, whose two daughters, Monica and Sarah, are among the girls kidnapped from their hostel in Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State on 15 April, said last Wednesday. “We are waiting for the President to hear from him; we the parents we cannot say a word because we don’t know anything,” he added.
While the parents of the Chibok girls continue to entertain hope that the negotiation with the insurgents will eventually lead to their re-unification with their children, the promise of peace to the beleaguered residents of Northeast Nigeria through the ceasefire deal took less than 24 hours to unravel. Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, in a somewhat triumphant mood had, while announcing the ceasefire agreement with the Boko Haram terrorists on Friday, 17 October, hinted that it would entail cessation of hostilities on both sides.
The CDS, who announced the ceasefire at the end of the two-day Coordinating Conference on Cameroun-Nigeria Trans-Border Military Operations in Abuja, said he had directed all the military Service Chiefs to comply with the ceasefire agreement signed in Saudi Arabia.
“I wish to inform this audience that a ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad
. I have, accordingly, directed the Service Chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development in the field,” Badeh said while affirming that the ceasefire deal will not affect the accord reached with Cameroon for joint security border operations.