August 18th, 2012
NewsRescue- The story of the talks first broke on SunNews yesterday, we hesitated, but now that the FG has released an official statement, we prefer the SunNews version as it earned itself much credibility. For sumarily FG release, scroll to bottom:
From Ade Alade, Abuja
There are indications that the spate of bombings in parts of the country may soon come to an end if ongoing talks between a Federal Government team led by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and leaders of the islamist sect, Boko Haram, do not hit the rock.
A deputy leader of the sect, Habu Mohammed had on Monday in far away Mecca, Saudi Arabia announced that the group is engaged in direct talks with the Federal Government on ending violence in the country’s north. Mohammed, who claims to be a deputy to the sect leader, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, said the militant group decided to initiate the peace moves in response to numerous public appeals for peace in the country.
Pressed for details about the peace talks, a top contact in Boko Haram told Saturday Sun that the NSA has been holding discussions with some appointed representatives of the sect at designated venues in the North in recent weeks. The source added that an appreciable progress was, however, made last week when the sect signified its intention to send some of its leaders to an Arab country where a government team was asked to hold direct talks with the Boko Haram leaders.
According to the source, “the direct contact meeting has now been held and we have stated our grievances and tabled our demands before the government team. The government delegation has promised to return to Nigeria and brief the president before returning for further discussions.” The sect’s source, who would not disclose what the demands presented to the government delegation were because the two parties were yet to reach concrete agreements on them, however, said:
“It is left for them (government) to act now so that we can all move on.” The source revealed that the government’s delegation to the talk was a six-member team but declined to disclose who they are. No government official was ready to react to the claim but a senior official involved in the process, who would not want to be named, urged Saturday Sun to “accept what the sect told you as the truth and don’t probe for further details, please.” Quite a large number of Nigerian government officials, including Vice President Namadi Sambo and muslim faithful travelled between last week and now for the lesser hajj (Umrah) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia where the deputy leader of Boko Haram, Habu Mohammed had announced the ongoing talks with the Federal Government.
The Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Nigeria, including church bombings and the bombing of a United Nations building. The group has threatened international media organizations, including VOA’s Hausa service.
The militant group has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, sayingå it does not recognize the Nigerian government or the constitution. On Wednesday this week, the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku told journalists in Abuja that the Federal Government was not averse to discussing with the group. According to him, it was in the best interest of the country that peace returned.
“It is a known fact that violence has disrupted socio-economic activities in some parts of northern Nigeria. We have accepted dialogue as a way of bringing the situation to an end as quickly as possible. We have always called on those engaging in violence to stop because violence can’t solve any problem.
So, we welcome the decision to hold dialogue,” the minister said. And during his recent trip in the island country of Trinidad and Tobago, the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, told the Nigerian community that his government had been treading softly on the group because members are also “our siblings,” adding: “It is extremely difficult to deal with them. You cannot mobilise the whole soldiers to go and wipe out your entire family… So, it is easier to deal with foreigners than with your brothers.”