The recent split in the ranks of the Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram, leading to a division over a ceasefire, has been traced to a recent peace initiative spearheaded by the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF.
The peace offensive, which saw a delegation of the forum meet with the second-in-command of the Boko Haram group, it was learnt yesterday, may also have opened way for the proposed presidential visit to Maiduguri, Borno State, scheduled for tomorrow.
The peace initiative, under the auspices of NSGF, was spearheaded by the Committee on Reconciliation, Healing and Security headed by Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim, a former Director-General of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency, NIA.
It also recommended a comprehensive amnesty for the combatants and rehabilitation of all those affected by the crisis.
The committee, Codewit learnt yesterday, has written the chairman of NSGF and Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, detailing a rundown of the process that led to the declaration of the ceasefire which has now been rebutted by the acclaimed leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau.
C’ttee’s letter to NSGF
In the 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, Ambassador Ibrahim was quoted to have 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.”
In their recommendations on the way forward, the committee said: “This Committee should arrange for further visits to Borno and Yobe states to meet with this group and other groups that have now indicated their willingness to come into the peace process. Accordingly, these discussions should be in conjunction with the governments and the Elders Forum of each of the states.
“This Committee recommends that the President visits Borno, Yobe and Kano states and should meet not only governments of these states but also with a cross section of the elders of the various communities.”
The committee sugested 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.
On Yusuf’s killers
Other recommendations are that the protracted court case against the suspected killers of Mohammed Yusuf should be brought to a quick determination;
Federal Government should consider not only the rehabilitation of combatants, but 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.