by Rachel Ogbu
The Federal Government has intensified its manhunt for Boko Haram sect leaders believed to be hiding in the desert and mountains of northern Mali.
On Tuesday in Geneva, President Goodluck Jonathan had told the Nigerian community that 50 per cent of Boko Haram members received training in terror in northern Mali.
“If you don’t solve the problem of Mali, Nigerians will continue to sleep with one eye because the terrorists will like to move from northern Mali to Niger, Chad and of course northern Nigeria.
“Almost 50 per cent of the Boko Haram adherents were trained in northern Mali. Most of the weapons they use come from Libya to Mali and then to Nigeria,” Jonathan said.
The Punch reports:
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Saturday PUNCH investigations reveal that the Nigerian government is committing a huge amount of money to the prosecution of the campaign against the Islamists in northern Mali because of the belief in security circles that the area has been a haven for wanted commanders of the sect.
Prior to the Mali mission, the Joint Task Force had placed a ransom on the leader of the sect, Imam Abubakar Shekau and 19 others for offences ranging from “killings and bombings to assassination of civilians, religious leaders, traditional rulers, businessmen, politicians, civil servants and security personnel among others,” and the destruction of property worth millions of naira.
The task force placed a ransom of N50m on Shekau and N25m each on four others: Habibu Yusuf aka Asalafi; Khalid Albarnawai, Momodu Bama and Mohammed Zangini, identified as members of the “Shurra Committee.”
The security outfit also placed a ransom of N10m each on 14 commanders of the sect.
The Federal Government has so far committed $35m into the campaign to liberate northern Mali from the control of the Islamists, President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly said.
As a result of the strong belief in security circles that the Boko Haram top commanders are coordinating attacks within Nigeria from neighbouring Western African countries, key security figures are not jumping to celebrate the declaration by a faction of the group for a ceasefire.
Investigations showed that the nation’s secret police, the State Security Service, is not taking the issue of ceasefire with excitement.
The SSS is waiting for the conditions for the planned negotiation to take a position on the issue of peace overture from the sect.
An SSS source said that the Federal Government would observe the sect for at least six months after which steps could be taken on the issue of ceasefire.
It is the position of the operatives that the various factions of the sect might engage one another in a confrontation which might prevent the Federal Government from going into the negotiations expected to seal the proposed ceasefire.
The source said, “On the issue of ceasefire, security agencies are waiting for their conditions. Once we study their conditions, the office will determine what to do, whether to go ahead or not.
“The SSS is getting close to them. They are divided, but the government has to study them. The SSS will observe them for six months. If there is a fight after six months, the government will know that they cannot be negotiated with; they will be ignored.
“We are on the trail of the key leaders of the sect. Security operatives sighted some of them in Mali in December. Some of them are believed to have left Mali but are being trailed.”
It was further gathered that this period has become more precarious for the members of the sect even in the Islamic North with the recorded attacks on prominent emirs including Alhaji Ado Bayero of Kano.
It was also stated that the faction of the Boko Haram members purportedly calling for a ceasefire might have been compelled to do so because of the waning support base of the group in the North.
It is believed to be the view of several Muslims outside the North-East that a group claiming to be fighting the cause of Islam would not be targeting prominent figures from an Islamic society for elimination.
“Even among the northerners, there are people who are opposed to them because they are seen to be attacking the northern oligarchy, especially with the attack on Ado Bayero and the Emir of Fika, Alhaji Abali Ibn Mohammed Idrisa.
“Many northerners are of the view that a group claiming to fight the cause of Islam would not attack leaders of Islamic societies. Their sympathy base is fast running dry even in the North,” the source said.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, had said that the government would give the Boko Haram Islamic sect a period of 30 days to stop all forms of violence before it could take seriously the offer of ceasefire proposed by the sect’s Commander in Southern and Northern Borno, Mohammed Abdulazeez.
“You see, we must treat that with a lot of caution. You understand, there are certain objective tests that will make sense. Let’s assume we can have a long period of about one month where no bomb explodes, where nobody is shot, where nobody is beheaded, where no church is bombed, where no mosque is threatened.
“If they can guarantee just one month, then we can begin to talk. You see, we must take this with a lot of caution. That is what I am telling you.
“We hope whatever that must have brought about this will further enhance our security and it’s like a recognition of the very futile approach to solving whatever they consider to be their problems. So, we are a bit excited by it but we are taking everything with a lot of caution,” he said