Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Boko Haram writes FG asking for dialogue - PUNCH

Members of Boko Haram

The Islamist militant group,  Boko Haram,  has distributed a letter requesting dialogue  with the Federal  Government.

The letter, which was  sent through head of journalists in Borno State, Aba Kakami, came less than 72 hours after a double suicide bombing  led to the death of  at least 17 people at the Protestant Military Church, Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna State.

Kakami  has often received and distributed statements from the sect.

According to an  international news agency, Reuters, the letter was signed by Sheik Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, a man known  in  security sources to be a moderate senior member of the sect.

The letter, if  genuine,  would  mark a change  of departure  of  tactics by the  group which has been been responsible for  many  bombings in the country.

Nearly 3,000 people have died violent deaths related to the conflict since the sect launched its uprising in 2009, according to a count by Human Rights Watch. Boko Haram has replaced militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta over that time to become the biggest security threat to Nigeria.

Communication  with Boko Haram , which   wants  imposition of  sharia  on Nigeria, has been even more sporadic than normal since the military killed its  spokesman, Abu Qaqa, in September.

Abdulazeez first contacted journalists in Maiduguri earlier this month, setting conditions for peace talks in the teleconference and nominating former Head of State,   Muhammadu Buhari , as a mediator. Buhari has since declined the offer.

“We are by this letter of invitation to our respected elders proving to government that we are not joking with the government, but we are awaiting the response of those concerned,” Abdulazeez said in the letter.

Abdulazeez said he was speaking on behalf of Abubakar Shekau, the sect’s leader.

But even if Abdulazeez does represent Shekau, the extent to which Boko Haram is controlled by Shekau is in doubt, and analysts think military pressure has fragmented it.

The letter nominated  Imam Gabchiya, an official  of  the University  of  Maiduguri, Borno State as  mediator.

There was no immediate reaction from  Federal  Government officials, but President Goodluck Jonathan  had said on November 18 that no talks were going on with Boko Haram .

The handover of the letter came three days after  the  army offered a N290m  bounty for information leading to the capture of 19 leading members of the sect.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Olasa’ad Ibrahim, has  said  that due process will be followed in meting out punishment  to  soldiers on duty when suicide bombers attacked the military church in Jaji on Sunday

Ibrahim, who was in Kaduna on Tuesday,   noted that the board  set up to investigate the twin attacks  would spell out the appropriate punishment.

He described  the incident as sad and pointed out that the military  would  put some mechanism in place to forestall future occurrence.

The CDS, who spoke  with newsmen shortly after visiting the scene, argued that the  explosions  were  least expected.

He said, “We expect that the Board of Enquiry will reflect blame worthiness of the few and then we will treat it on its merit, but we cannot pre-empt what took place and how the bomb-laden vehicles got into the cantonment.

“We also respect  due process and the rule of law and there are codes out there that we must insist on because those are the only ways we can render justice but the report itself is the only thing that can define precisely who is to blame and who is not to be blamed and who is to be rewarded for exemplary actions.

“Perhaps with the lesson now, we could not afford to take anything for granted. So, we will put it behind us quickly after the board of inquiry and then we will put some other mechanisms in place to prevent such  incident in the future.”

Also,Canada has warned  its citizens against all un-essential travels to Nigeria.

In its travel advisory  accessed by one of our correspondents on Tuesday,  Canada  said that  “terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could target locations frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, including hotels, bars, markets and shopping centres.”

It therefore enjoined  Canadians  “to maintain a high level of security awareness in these public areas.”

The travel warning noted that there have been a number of large scale coordinated terrorist attacks over the last few months.

The United Kingdom had   in its website, on Monday,  also   warned its citizens against  travels to Borno and Yobe states  as well as the riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. Its specifically listed Warri and Kano  among the no go areas.

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