The Boko Haram sect has allegedly offered a ceasefire through dialogue with the federal government on the condition that the government will arrest and prosecute the former governor of Borno, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, according to an online report monitored in Abuja yesterday.
The report, which could not be verified independently, claimed that former military Head of State, Gen Muhammad Buhari, could head the sect’s negotiation team. It was not clear if Gen Muhammadu Buhari had been contacted by the sect last night — or if the sect had even conveyed its demand to the federal government.
The news of the offer, which was widely reported last night by both international and local media, was said to have been broken to journalists in a tele-conference in Maiduguri yesterday by one of the sect’s leaders, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz.
Usually, such reports are broadcast through YouTube by the presumed leader of the sect, Shekau.
But yesterday’s report indicated that the sect was willing to meet with the federal government’s delegation in Saudi Arabia, adding that ex-Yobe State governor and now senator, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, first Nigerian minister of petroleum, octogenarian Shettima Ali Monguno, chairman of the presidential committee on insecurity in the northeast, Amb Gaji Gatimari and other prominent members of the Borno Emirate would be part of the negotiation.
In a reaction, the presidency yesterday described as a welcome development the proposed ceasefire by Boko Haram, saying government was ready to embrace it if the group was sincere.
The Presidency, however, said it had not been contacted.
The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said “Yes, I have seen the story in which the Boko Haram is reportedly declaring a ceasefire and the opening of dialogue. I think it is important to restate the position of government in this matter.
“The federal government is committed to peace and security for the benefit of all Nigerians. If what the proposed ceasefire is intended to achieve are the objectives of peace and security, then it is a welcome development. Don’t forget that President Jonathan had made it clear that if the people behind Boko Haram are ready to come forward, and table their grievances, then government will be willing to listen to those grievances,” he said.
The presidential spokesman added: “There have been attempts before now, by concerned persons to reach out to the Boko Haram through back channels, in response to government’s call that all efforts should be made to resolve the problem.
“I suspect that this latest development may be related to that. Definitely, government is determined to ensure peace, peace, and peace, and protect the rule of law, and at the same time, see that justice is done where wrongs have been committed.”
A few high profile attempts at a ceasefire in the past had foundered on suspicion and mutual distrust.