President Goodluck Jonathan
The presidency has commenced consultations with security chiefs on the “ceasefire” declared by a cell of the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, whose members were suspected to have been behind a wave of gun attacks on policemen in some Northern states between Wednesday and Thursday.
No fewer than eight policemen and one unidentified person were killed by gunmen, suspected to be Boko Haram members in Kaduna, Kano and Gombe States.
Four others were also killed thursday in Mubi, Adamawa State, by men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) after watching a football match.
As the Federal Government considers the olive branch waved by Boko Haram, a former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd.), has cautioned it against entering into dialogue with the sect.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, told THISDAY yesterday that the Federal Government was yet to take a decision on whether to accept the Boko Haram offer.
According to him, government was still consulting with the various security agencies on the offer of ceasefire and dialogue by the religious sect before coming up with its position.
Okupe was reacting to Wednesday’s statement by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, that the Federal Government should accept the Boko Haram offer for dialogue as a first step towards ending the insecurity in the North.
The presidential aide said government had noted the development, but at the moment, “we are still consulting with the various security agencies before an appropriate decision is taken.”
He assured Nigerians and the international community that whatever decision is taken would have the buy-in of Nigerians, as there are standards to be followed in this matter.
“The consultations with the security agencies are ongoing and at the end of the day, government will announce its decision and Nigerians would be happy with the decision taken on this matter.
“There are standards in negotiations and government is following the rights steps that would be made known after consultations. I can assure you that the Federal Government will come out with a reasonable decision.
“Any decision taken on this matter will not be based on sentiments, but let it be said that the Federal Government is studying the offer for dialogue,” Okupe said.
But while Nigerians are waiting for the government’s decision on the Boko Haram’s olive branch, Ukiwe warned the Federal Government against any dialogue with the sect.
Fielding questions from journalists in Port Harcourt Thursday shortly after presiding over the opening ceremony of the fourth triennial delegates’ conference of the Rivers State Council of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), he said the kind of crimes committed by Boko Haram do not give room for dialogue with the government.
He said: “Did they offer to dialogue or did they offer to lay down their arms and conform to the rules and regulation of the nation?
“I don’t know what they mean by dialogue because the sort of crime they are committing does not give much room for dialogue. Unless the dialogue they are offering contains something that I am not thinking of.
“I will not be able to advise the government on what to do because if they can drop bombs in religious places, assassinate people, commit suicide bombings and you want to talk to somebody, how are you sure he is not coming with a bomb-laden tummy to talk to you?
“My attitude is not predisposed to talking to or holding dialogue with a man who is bombing the public.”
Notwithstanding the offer of ceasefire by Boko Haram, the carnage in the North has not abated, as gunmen killed nine persons in different attacks in Kaduna, Kano and Gombe States. In Kaduna, the gunmen attacked a police station in Birnin-Gwari, headquarters of Gwari Local Government Area, killing five policemen while the police station was burnt down.
They also robbed two commercial banks in the area, First Bank and Ecobank.
The bandits, who were said to have stormed the town in two sports utility vehicles (SUVs), were said to have set free some suspects being detained at the police station before torching it.
Sources said the policemen on duty could not withstand their superior firepower and had to flee for their dear lives.
However, five of the policemen were not that lucky as they fell to the bullets of the assailants.
Sources disclosed that the incident, which started at about 1 am yesterday, lasted until about 5am.
After attacking the police station, the robbers were said to have headed for the two banks where they used explosives to destroy the ATM before blasting the entrance of the banks and the strong rooms.
An undisclosed amount of money was said to have been carted away by the gunmen.
A resident, whose house is close to one of the banks, told THISDAY that they were terrified by the sound of gunshots that sounded like that of bombs.
“The attack started around 1 am and they continued until around 5 am without the police or army deployed to the area to apprehend them,” the eyewitness said.
The state police command, while confirming the incident, said the gunmen came in the early hours of yesterday and killed the policemen.
Spokesman, Mr. Aminu Lawan, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) who confirmed the incident, however, said three persons, comprising two policemen and a civilian, were killed in the incident.
He said the gunmen were about 50 and they attacked the police station and two commercial banks.
“Our men could not face them, they retreated. They burnt the police station. They also killed one other person after robbing the banks. We have not made any arrest, but we are investigating,” he said.
Another set of gunmen attacked a police division at Bunkure Local Government Area of Kano State, killing a police sergeant and another unidentified person.
The gunmen, who were said to be in large numbers, attacked the police station on Wednesday night with explosives.
According to an eyewitness, who craved anonymity the gunmen threw explosives into the police station, which is located near the town’s main market.
Spokesman for the police in the state, Musa Magaji Majia, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), confirmed the attack, saying, “One of our officers was killed along with an unidentified person.”
Majia explained that security has been beefed up in the area with a view to making arrests.
Two other policemen were also killed in a similar attack in Gombe State Thursday.
The state police command confirmed the killing of the policemen around the Central Roundabout in Gombe metropolis yesterday morning.
The gunmen attacked the policemen at a stop-and-search point at about 6.30 am, during which a beggar who was nearby was hit by stray bullets.
Confirming the incident, Police Public Relations Officer, Fwaje Atajiri, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said the gunmen struck when security in the area, which is usually fortified with two patrol vehicles and a Rapid Response Squad from Gombe Central Division, was relaxed after the departure of the reinforcement.
JTF operatives in Adamawa State were also said to have killed four youths in Mubi Local Government Area.
An eyewitness said the incident happened at Gaya ward in Mubi when the youths were returning home after watching a football match.
When contacted, the JTF spokesman, Lt. Nuhu Jafar, said he was not aware of the incident because he was actively involved in the military recruitment exercise currently going on in the state.