Boko Haram agrees to a ceasefire By FUNKE OSAE-BROWN in Lagos | Tuesday, January 29  2013 at  13:54

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau making one of his videotaped messages posted on YouTube. PHOTO | AFP 

After three years of unremitting attacks on places worship and other public places, Nigeria's Islamist terror group Boko Haram, which officially calls itself Jamaatul AhjlilSunna lidawati wal Jihad, agreed to a ceasefire on Monday.

In a statement, Sheikh Muhammed Abdulaziz, the organisation’s second in command for southern and northern Borno, said the agreement was reached after dialogue with the Borno state government. He said he had the consent approval of Boko Haram's overall leader Abubakar Shekau.

Boko Haram had its origins in Borno state where it has carried out numerous attacks, especially in and around the state capital Maiduguri.

However, the organisation has tied the ceasefire to two conditions: One, that arrested Boko Haram members be released; and the destroyed mosque of one of its leaders, Mohammed Yusuf, be rebuilt.

Sheikh Abdulaziz said the group was serious about the ceasefire and told the security agencies to go ahead and arrest anyone who violated it once the ceasefire is formally sealed.

“We are going to comply with the ceasefire order and by the time we are done with that, then government security agencies can go ahead to arrest whoever they find carrying arms or killing under our name,” he said.

Dialogue

Meanwhile, the group stated that although there were factions within its ranks, the supreme power to order a ceasefire rested with the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, who is the leader of the authentic group.

“Once top members of our group, including Imam Abubakar Shekau, are in support of the need for a ceasefire, other smaller factions can be dealt with easily,” said the Boko Haram commander.

“For some time now, we the members of Jamaatul AhjlilSunna lidawati wal Jihad (Boko Haram) have recently had a meeting and dialogue with the government of Borno state where we resolved that given the prevailing situation, there is the need for us to cease fire.

“We, on our own, in the top hierarchy of our movement under the leadership of Imam Abubakar Shekau, as well as some of our notable followers, agreed that our brethren in Islam, both women and children, are suffering unnecessarily. Hence we resolved that we should bring this crisis to an end.

“We therefore call on all those that identify themselves with us and our cause, to from today (Monday) lay down their arms. Let every member who hears this announcement relay it to the next member who hasn’t heard,” the Boko Haram commander pleaded.

The Nigerian government, in a swift reaction, said it would not make a formal pronouncement yet on the ceasefire, as it wants to carefully study the conditions for the ceasefire before making a pronouncement on it.

“From our experience, the sect is not reliable and their words cannot be taken at face value,” said a source within the Federal government who did not want to be identified.

“All facets of the governmental apparatus will be consulted before a final decision is taken on the matter. We are not in a hurry to jump at their offer," said the source.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had initiated a dialogue between Boko Haram and the Federal government when he visited the family of the late leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, in Maiduguri on September 15, 2011.

The dialogue later broke down.