Abuja (AFP) – Officials and campaigners on Saturday
anxiously awaited further news about the fate of
more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls after Nigeria
claimed to have reached a deal with Boko Haram
militants to secure their release.
Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh told
senior military officials from Nigeria and Cameroon
meeting in Abuja on Friday that a “ceasefire
agreement” had been concluded between the
government and the insurgents.
“I have accordingly directed the service chiefs to
ensure immediate compliance with this
development,” he added.
Badeh’s announcement came after a senior aide to
President Goodluck Jonathan, Hassan Tukur, told AFP
an agreement to end hostilities had been reached
following talks, as well as for the release of 219 girls
held captive since April.
But a precedent of previous government and military
claims about an end to the deadly five-year conflict
and the fate of the missing teenagers left many
Jonathan is expected to declare his bid for re-election
in the coming weeks, and positive news about the
hostages and the violence would likely give him a
Shehu Sani, a Boko Haram expert who has negotiated
with the group on behalf of the government said he
had “never heard” of Danladi Ahmadu, whom Tukur
claimed represented the militants at talks.
Ralph Bello-Fadile an advisor to Nigeria’s National
Security Advisor (NSA), said the NSA has been
inundated with fraudsters claiming to represent Boko
Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.
“Government wants to negotiate but so far nobody
has come forward who speaks for Shekau,” he told a
Chatham House conference in Abuja on Monday.
The Nigerian government’s own security spokesman,
Mike Omeri, also said that no deal had yet been
reached on releasing the girls.
The United States said it could not confirm whether a
deal had taken place.
“Obviously, we would welcome an end to hostilities, a
restoration of security and, I think it should go
without saying, would welcome the release of those
girls that have been gone far too long. But we cannot
independently confirm that at this point,” said State
Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
“This ceasefire is incredibly promising, but we aren’t
there yet — until every girl is released negotiations
must continue,” added Hussaini Abdu, the country
director for ActionAid Nigeria.
– Chad talks –
Tukur said he represented the government at two
meetings with the Islamists in Chad, which were
mediated by the country’s President Idriss Deby.
“Boko Haram issued the ceasefire as a result of the
discussions we have been having with them,” said
Tukur, adding that Ahmadu made the announcement
on Thursday evening.
“They have agreed to release the Chibok girls,” he
continued, referring to the girls seized in northeast
Nigeria on April 14, causing global outrage.
Leaders of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which
has been pressuring the government to act, gave a
cautious welcome to a possible release.
“We are monitoring the news with huge
expectations,” they said on Twitter.
Ndjamena refused to comment but security sources
in the country said Chad, which Jonathan visited for
talks with Deby early last month, had been involved
in the discussions.
The source also said a ceasefire agreement was
reached as well as the release of 27 hostages, 10 of
them Chinese nationals, who were kidnapped in
northern Cameroon earlier this year.
The release of the hostages last weekend was “a first
strong signal” from Boko Haram to prove their good
faith, the source added but did not mention the
Cameroon announced on Friday that eight of its
soldiers and 107 Boko Haram fighters were killed
during fierce fighting in its far north region on
Wednesday and Thursday.
A police officer told AFP that at least 30 civilians had
been killed by Boko Haram before the military
In Nigeria, unidentified gunmen on Friday killed eight
people on a road near Shaffa village in Borno state,
two local residents said, but it was not clear if the
attack was by militants.
The incident, however, happened near where a
prominent Muslim leader, the Emir of Gwoza, was
killed by Boko Haram militants in May.
– Discrepancies –
Ahmadu gave an interview broadcast on Friday on the
Hausa language service of Voice of America radio in
which he claimed to be the group’s “chief security
officer” and in charge of publicity.
He made no mention of an end to hostilities and was
vague on details of the apparent talks, even claiming
not to have met Shekau.
He also referred to the jihadi group as Boko Haram, a
name that means ‘Western education is forbidden’
which was imposed on the Islamist radicals by
outsiders. The insurgents themselves never use the
The group’s known leaders have exclusively used the
name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,
which means “People Committed to the Propagation
of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.
He made no reference to the Chibok girls and did not
list the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria’s mainly
Muslim north — the core, unwavering Boko Haram
demand since the uprising began.
Shekau has in a series of video messages since 2012
ruled out talks with the government and said
northern Nigeria will never know peace until sharia
(Islamic law) is strictly enforced.
Envoys from Nigeria’s presidency have made similar
ceasefire claims in the past, notably Jonathan’s
Minister for Special Duties Taminu Turaki, who led a
so-called amnesty commission in 2013 that was
tasked with brokering peace.
But nothing materialised from Turaki’s protracted
negotiations. Shekau said that he never sent
delegates to any talks and attacks continued at a
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