THE Jama’atu Allus Sunnah Lilda wati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram, (Western education is sin), came into existence in the 1960s but survived through the decades under various names. However, it started drawing attention to itself in 2002, when Mohammed Yusuf became its leader. In 2004, it moved to Kanamma, Yobe State, where it set up a base called ‘Afghanistan’ from where it attacked nearby police stations, killing police officers.
In July 2009, the Nigeria Police started investigating Boko Haram, following reports that the group was arming itself. Yusuf, the leader and others, were arrested and on July 30, 2009 allegations were made that Yusuf was extra-judicially killed by Nigerian security forces after being taken into custody. The development invigorated deadly clashes with Nigerian security forces and attacks on churches, public institutions and military facilities, among others, which have led to the death of about 3,500 people.
Litany of attacks Before the clashes, many Muslim leaders, and at least one military official, had warned the authorities about Boko Haram. Those warnings were reportedly ignored. According to Human Rights Watch, between July and December 2010, at least 85 people were killed in some 35 separate attacks in four states in northern and central Nigeria, as well as in Abuja, the nation’s capital. Attacks attributed to Boko Haram in 2011 left at least 550 people dead in 115 separate incidents.
Between January and December 2012, Boko Haram-related attacks occurred in 14 of the country‘s 36 states, including all the 12 states that have already adopted Sharia Islamic law, Plateau State and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Violence blamed on Boko Haram, which said it wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has killed more than 900 people in 2012, in about 290 separate attacks in 12 north-eastern and central states, and Abuja, making 2012 the deadliest year since the group began its attacks in 2009. And in 2013, about 250 people have been killed in Boko Haram-related attacks and incidents.
The litany of attacks include those of the United Nations Office, Abuja, Police Headquarters, Abuja, the building housing ThisDay Newspapers, Sun Newspapers and Daily Trust in Abuja, St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, Deeper Life Church, Okene; Military Cantonment Jaji, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SAS) office and other numerous security facilities especially police stations.
The security agencies also went on counter-offensive arresting, detaining and in many instances, killing Boko Haram members and leaders.
Disturbed by the escalating violence many northern leaders and groups, including the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, urged government to dialogue with the group to end the killings.
Last November, the group gave the government conditions for ending the hostilities. Acclaimed spokesman of the group, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, in a tele-conference with journalists in Maiduguri, stated that if the state and the Federal Government wanted the group to cease-fire completely, then former Borno state governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, must be arrested and prosecuted according to the laws of the land.
He also said that the government should compensate the group and rebuild their places of worship which were destroyed during the 2009 uprising.
He pointed out that for a dialogue to take place, it must be through the following elders: Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno; former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari; former Yobe State governor, Bukar Abba Ibrahim; Ambassador Gaji Galtimari and Barr Aisha Alkali Wakil and her husband, Barr, Alkali Wakil, insisting that the dialogue must not take place in Saudi Arabia.
Abu Abdulazeez also said that the group had mandated five members who are to mediate on their behalf; they include himself (Abu Mohammed Abdulazeez), Abu Abbas, Sheikh Ibrahim Yusuf, Sheikh Sani Kontogora and Mamman Nur.
Buhari later distanced himself from the group and the Federal Government said it could not negotiate with pre-conditions, thus the crisis was allowed to fester.
With the latest decision of the group to sheathe its sword, it is hoped that all stakeholders will play their required roles for normalcy to return to the country. Porous ceasefire However, a peace deal was brokered on January 28, 2013 after a marathon meeting between some leaders of the group, which has been terrorizing some states in the North, particularly Borno State, since July 2009, and the Borno State Government, led by Governor Kashim Shettima with other top government officials and religious leaders from the state in attendance.
The cease-fire came after a 42-month multi-prong attack unleashed on the polity by the sect.
Briefing newsmen after the marathon meeting in Maiduguri, Sheikh Abu Mohammad Abdulazeez Ibn Idris, a commander of Boko Haram in-charge of North and Central Borno, said after due consultation with the leader of the sect, Shiekh Abubakar Shekau, as well as intervention and pleadings from respected individuals and groups in the state, we ‘’have all come to terms and agreed to lay down our arms.’’
The Boko Haram Commander, however, insisted that government should immediately release all their members from custody unconditionally, re-build their places of worship and compensate them, among other demands.
Sheikh Abdulazeez said that, the sect observed that during the lingering insurgency, many Muslim women and children had suffered untold hardship, adding that, they also decided to lay down their arms for peace to reign in Borno State and the country at large.
“I am appealing and calling on all our members through this medium to lay down their arms henceforth, till further notice,” Abdulazeez stated.
However, a few hours after the cease-fire, a faction of the sect distanced itself from the peace-deal and accelerated its deadly attacks, which have claimed about 250 lives since then.
The search for peace took President Goodluck Jonathan to Borno and Yobe states last month. The series of parleys during the two-day visit did not yield amnesty as President Jonathan insisted that the Federal Government could not grant amnesty to ghosts. He urged leaders of Boko Haram to come out of their hiding and dialogue with government as was done in the Niger Delta before amnesty could be granted.
The matter was on the front burner this week following the exchange of brick-bat between Buhari and the presidency. While Buhari accused the Presidency of being responsible for ‘political Boko Haram’ and should take responsibility for the escalating mayhem, the Presidency countered that Buhari was responsible because he threatened to make the country ungovernable if he lost the 2011 polls. The government asked Buhari to act like a patriot and get Boko Haram leaders to embrace dialogue. Buhari refused and advised the government to carry its cross.
Timeline of Boko Haram attacks in 2012 The Islamic group, between January 1 and November 30, 2012, unleashed a flurry of bomb, gun and suicide attacks on security facilities, churches and public institutions, which claimed about 3,000 lives and destroyed property worth trillions of Naira
January 5, 2012: Gun men opened fire at a church service in Nasarawa, Gombe State, killing six people and wounding 10.
January 6: Militants armed with automatic weapons stormed a town hall in Mubi, Adamawa State, where people had gathered to mourn three Christians, who were shot the previous evening and killed 18 people. Eight people were also killed in a separate ambush of Christians leaving a church service in Yola, the state capital.
Later in the day, a spokesman for Boko Haram, calling himself Abu Qaqa, claimed responsibility for two incidents and the shooting during a church service in Gombe that killed six people the previous Thursday.
January 20: After Friday prayers, a group of gunmen in police uniforms entered five police buildings and freed all the inmates. They proceeded to bomb the buildings, as well as two immigration offices and the local office of the Department of State Security, DSS, in Kano. They later drove around the city in cars and motorcycles, shooting pedestrians and battling with police. Among the dead was a Channels Television reporter, Eneche Akogwu, who was shot while covering the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
Now called “Black Friday” by residents of Kano, the sect on that day executed massive simultaneous attacks on churches and security agencies.