- No date fixed for Chibok girls’ release
- Ceasefire agreement yet to be signed
- Fresh terrorists attacks in Borno, Adamawa
By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja, ThisDay
The federal government has confirmed that negotiations for a ceasefire agreement with the “Abubakar Shekau” leadership of Ahlul Sunna Li Daawa Wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, will resume this week. The Principal Private Secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan and leader of the federal government team that brokered the latest ceasefire agreement, Alhaji Hassan Tukur, disclosed this on Saturday in an interview with THISDAY. He said the release of the over 200 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok, in Borno State, by the sect in April was at the top of the agenda.
Contrary to media reports, Tukur clarified that no issues were put on the table neither was there any discussion about the release of the Chibok girls or prisoner–swap before the current ceasefire agreement between the federal government and Boko Haram.
He said both parties had agreed, as a first step, to cease hostilities, in a deal brokered by Chadian President Idris Deby, before discussing conditions for the signing of a ceasefire agreement.
Tukur explained how members of Boko Haram, who claimed to have been sent by one “Imam Abubakar Shekau,” sent an emissary to the Chadian government to initiate discussion with Nigerian government on how to end the insurgency.
After a thorough investigation, he said, Deby contacted Jonathan, who visited Ndjamena for an ICT conference on September 8 and used the opportunity to engage in further discussion on the deal with Boko Haram.
NewsRescue– Australian negotiator, Stephen Davis, exposed Ali Modu Sheriff and Ihejirika as sponsors of Boko Haram August 29th, a week before alleged emergency call by Deby for Sheriff, Jonathan meeting that has spurred current change in events.
The presidential aide said, “We have been discussing with the Ahlul Sunna Li Daawa Wal Jihad since 2013 and recently we sat down together in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, and agreed the need for a ceasefire.
“The truth, however, is that the organisation contacted Chad government first, which did their own verification and informed us. However, both the federal government and Chadian government said that there has to be cessation of hostilities first before any meaningful discussion can start.”
Asked if there were terms and conditions before the ceasefire agreement was reached, he said; “No, there was none.”
On the date for the commencement of the negotiation, Tukur said the negotiation will commence this week.
Concerning the kidnapped Chibok girls, Tukur said even though Boko Haramdh had assured that the girls were alive and well, no agreement has been reached on the date of their freedom.
He also clarified that contrary to suggestions in some quarters that the military might not have been carried along in the current ceasefire arrangement and impeding negotiation.
“Of course, the military was carried along. If the President is the Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces you will know he will not go into any venture without factoring in the military. In fact, when you look into the various committees that were set up by the federal government, the military are usually represented.”
Meanwhile, Tukur has said that the federal government would investigate the reported violation of the on-going ceasefire agreement by Boko Haram following reports of attacks in parts of Borno and Adamawa states. There were reported attacks on Maikadiri in Abadam Local Government Area of Borno State, on Friday evening, and on Sina and Grata villages in Michika Local Government Area in Adamawa State yesterday.
The assaults came the day after a delegation said to be representatives of the terrorist sect that has killed thousands of people in Nigeria since 2009 signed a ceasefire accord with the federal government in in N’Djamena. One Danladi Ahmadu, described as the chief security officer of Boko Haram, had signed for the sect while the federal government was said to be represented by the Principal Private Secretary to the President, Ambassador Hassan Tukur. The Chadian president, Idriss Deby, was said to have facilitated the signing of the agreement.
The latest attacks bore all the hallmarks of a terrorist act by Boko Haram.
A source said about 20 gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents in two Hilux vehicles stormed Maikadiri and shot fiercely at people’s homes, killing many, including the father of the former speaker of Borno State House of Assembly, Goni Ali Modu. The Adamawa communities were equally overrun by gunmen in a style typical of the Islamic terrorist sect.
The following is an excerpt from the interview…
You said nothing had been discussed or put on the table yet, but Mike Omeri has announced that one of the items on the agenda was the release of the Chibok girls. What is your reaction to this?
I think you should ask Mike Omeri that question, how they arrived at the date for the release.
No, he didn’t put a date, but he said they will be released.
That is what I am saying; we are going to discuss with them next week. So the information will come after next week
Will there be a prisoner swap, who and how many people would be involved?
I don’t want to pre-empt anything. Please I want you to hold on till when the agreement is reached. You will be the first people to know the details. It is going to be an open secret.
What happens to the contested territories in parts of the North-east should this ceasefire hold, because the military has vowed that no part of Nigeria would be left in the hands of enemies?
What do you mean by contested. Do you mean by occupied. The military has said no territory of Nigeria would be occupied, including the contested areas. I can tell you that at the end of our discussion with Suna Jihad every territory that belongs to Nigeria will be back to Nigeria. The issue of those areas would be addressed squarely…if you remember the president has said there is no inhibition in discussing all issues, including the ones they will put on the table. There is no problem that Nigeria or Federal Government will not find a solution to. Also there is no country that its territory is occupied that will not want it returned. That is the import of this discussion. Every territory of Nigeria would return back to normalcy, local governments will function properly, people will go back to their businesses and to their houses and make sure that there is peace and stability.
Since you are involved in this negotiation with Boko Haram, Nigerians will want to know if the acclaimed leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, is dead as was being reported.
I cannot say whether he is dead or alive but an organisation of this nature has so many dynamics with people saying Shekau is still their leader. I don’t know whether he is dead or alive.
So which Boko Haram are you negotiating with?
The people we negotiated with are the people who initiated the discussion and they went through the Chadian leader Idris Deby to initiate contact with the Nigerian Government and after thorough investigation by the Chadian government, they came and we sat down to discuss. So we don’t know whether Shekau is dead or alive. It’s rumour and we only need to confirm. You saw the pictures on the Youtube and he looks like the spokesperson of the association. People that came they did it in the name of Abubakar Shekau but given the channel which they came I want to maintain confidentiality.
Assuming that Shekau is dead won’t there be a leadership vacuum and the problem of who to negotiate with?
I don’t know what you mean by the leadership vacuum. They have their structures still in existence like the Shura…they have a leadership council, which can negotiate on behalf of the organisation. If you can recall, Yusuf was their leader before and unfortunately he died. You saw when he was shot and later Abubakar Shekau emerged and as far as we know he is still their leader and he is the one they pay allegiance to, and that is the person they look up to.
We want to know the actors that brought this agreement or brokered this deal and what is the role of Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia has no role in it. I don’t know who told them this; that this agreement was signed in Saudi Arabia. I think the mistake was that when Suna Jihad wanted to declare their ceasefire the VOA representative in Nigeria who happened to be in Saudi Arabia as at that time on Hajj and when they got him on the phone he spoke from Saudi Arabia. This was now mistaken to mean the agreement was signed in Saudi Arabia that even when Channels TV heard N’djemena, Chad, they thought it’s Jedda in Saudi Arabia because it sounds similar. That is the mistake because it has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia at all and that should be corrected. It even presents a diplomatic problem because when the government of Saudi Arabia hears it, it could look like the federal government and Suna Jihad went to their country to reach an agreement without their permission. I want this to be corrected.
Which other actors played key roles in this?
The Chadian government, Idris Derby and his ministers. On the federal government side,
I represented the government. Also President Goodluck Jonathan gave his full support because no president of a country would want his country to dissolve under his leadership