Boko Haram agree to Negotiate with Nigerian Government, Name Ex-Yobe Governor as Negotiator


Boko Haram has indicated its preparedness to enter into dialogue with the Federal Government, and has named Sheik Abubakar Gero, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno and former governor of Yobe State, Senator Bukar Ibrahim, to hold negotiations on its behalf.

The sect's offer to dialogue comes after multiple bomb blasts rocked the Kaduna metropolis Tuesday. The explosions occurred at the 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army (Dalet Barrack), the Nigeria Air Force Base located along Mando Road, and the flyover at Kawo, in Kaduna. The three places are almost within the same vicinity.
The sect, which had sent a recorded video tape to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), released the names of four negotiators, however, the fourth name listed was not audible.
The authenticity of the video, THISDAY learnt, is being investigated by security agents. The tape which NTA claimed was delivered by an unidentified source featured two persons, fully masked in black. Only the voice of one was audible.
"We hereby confirm and accept the reported initiative of the president for dialogue as a welcome development," the speaker who did not identify himself said.
According to him, the group trusts the named leaders and said: "The decision taken by these people can actually change the whole situation."
Though the number of casualties from the Kaduna blasts was not specified, unconfirmed sources said the suicide bomber and two other people were killed in the blast while several other people sustained injuries.
Also, the fate of the suspended Commissioner of Police Zakari Biu over the escape of a Boko Haram suspect, hangs in the balance as the Force Disciplinary Committee (FDC), made up of all the six retired Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs), has made its recommendations to the Police Service Commission (PSC). He faces either retirement or dismissal.
An eyewitness said the explosion at the 1 Div Headquarters occurred at about 11.45 am, following which another explosion occurred 15 minutes later close to the main gate of the Nigeria Air Force Base located about 1,000 metres away from the scene of the first blast.
It was learnt that just when the security agents were trying to contain the situation at the scenes of the two blasts, another bomb exploded at about 12.20 pm under the flyover in Kawo, some metres away from the headquarters of the 1 Division of the Nigerian Army.
The Kawo Central Motor Park, a market, schools and residential homes around the areas were thrown into confusion as passengers, residents, and traders ran helter skelter for their dear lives while parents quickly rushed to pick up their children who were in schools.
The Kaduna Polytechnic, which was conducting its semester exams, suspended the exercise and closed down the school for fear of the unknown just as rumours made the rounds that the government had imposed curfew on the metropolis.
Officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and Red Cross were seen conveying those injured to the hospital.
Other victims were also seen being conveyed in a Toyota Hiace bus belonging to the Nigerian Army Officers' Wives Association to the Army Reference Hospital in Kaduna.
Eyewitnesses said the bomber and two other people were killed while several people including soldiers and civilians were said to have sustained injuries.
Officials of SEMA and the army declined comments on the casualty figures. However, the Assistant Director, Army Public Relation, at the 1 Mechanised Division, Lt. Col. Abubakar Edun, assured THISDAY over the phone, "We are on top of the situation; we are working on a press statement on the explosion; we will bring it to you as soon as it is ready."
Spokesman for the Air Force Training Command in Kaduna, Squadron Leader Mohammed Ali, however, confirmed that the explosion did not happen at the NAF base.
According to him, "The bomb exploded outside the premises of the Air Force Base and as such, the Air Force does not have an opinion on the explosion. Although the explosion was close to the NAF base gate, but it wasn't within our premises."
He added that since the explosion was not within the premises of NAF, investigations into the incident were left for the police to carry out.
Eyewitnesses revealed that a suicide bomber dressed in military uniform drove to the premises of the headquarters of the 1 Division in a Toyota Sienna passing the first gate.
On passing through the first gate, the soldiers on guard were said to have become suspicious and immediately opened fire on the vehicle possibly setting off the bomb and the death of the suicide bomber inside the vehicle.
Cameras belonging to the African Independent Television (AIT) and the Kaduna State Government-owned Capital TV were seized by soldiers when their reporters attempted to take shots of the scene of the incident.
Tight security checkpoints were mounted at the NNPC junction in the southern part of the metropolis while the major road leading to Zaria and the Lagos Road were completely blocked by soldiers causing serious traffic congestion in the city.
Sources confirmed that anti-bomb experts were promptly dispatched to the area for investigation and to comb the area to determine if more explosives devises were still hidden.
The Kaduna State Government was yet to make any official statement on the incidents at the time of this report, as a security meeting was said to be going on at the Government House.
Reacting to the foiled bomb attempt, Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Maj. Gen. Raphael Isa, said soldiers repelled the attack and were able to stop the suicide bomber driving in a private car from gaining entrance into the headquarters of 1st Division, where he planned to detonate the bomb.
Isa, however, explained that the bomb-laden car exploded after the bomber, who tried to force his way through, was fired at, and consequently shattered the glasses that cover the front of the Army building, which led to the death of only the suicide bomber.
"This morning (yesterday) reports reaching us from Headquarters, 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kawo, Kaduna State, indicate that there was a suicide bombing attempt by someone dressed in military uniform driving a private car.
"The soldiers at the Headquarters, 1 Division, repelled the attack and were able to stop what would have been a suicide bombing at the frontage of the Headquarters, 1 Division.
"However, after figuring the suicide bomber, who tried to force his way, the bomb exploded and shattered the glasses that adorn the frontage of the headquarters. The suicide bomber was the only casualty," he added.
The Army spokesman noted that the latest attack, which is suspected to have been carried out by Boko Haram, must have been in response to the recent arrest and interrogation of most of its members.
Isa disclosed that a lot of progress had been made in apprehending and rounding strategic members of the sects' leadership through some of the information provided by both members of the public, and particularly from their captured members.
He said that the security forces were working on fresh information that would lead to further arrests of more of the sect's members and sponsors.
"We are grateful to members of the public for all the information provided so far that has led to the arrest of key members of the notorious Boko Haram sect recently.
"We know that such attack might not be unconnected with recent arrest(s) of some of their key leaders. We are currently working on fresh information that will lead to the arrest of more sect members and their sponsors," he said.
The DAPR also disclosed that the army was working to bring to a halt frequent cases of impersonation and the use of military and paramilitary uniforms by members of Boko Haram to carry out their terrorist and suicide mission acts.
He revealed that the army had concluded plans to alter some features in their uniform as a security measure aimed at stopping the use of the military uniforms by members of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.
"The army is doing a lot now and I think you will see some changes in our mode of dressing. I think that there will be some adjustment in our mode of dressing, and as far as the soldiers are concerned, you will see some changes (soon)," he assured.
He added: "Any soldier (probably bombers) who is sympathetic to the terrorist (Boko Haram) cause is not worth being a soldier in the first place, because we took an oath to protect the territorial integrity of this country."
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force issued a statement last night confirming that its base in the city was not afftected by the multiple blasts that took place in Kaduna.
This clarification was made by the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Yusuf Anas. He disclosed that the bomb exploded about 500 meters away from the air force base.
"This is to inform the general public that the Nigerian Air Force Base, Kaduna was not affected by the bomb blast which occurred at about 12.30hrs. The bomb blast occurred about 500 meters from the air force base outer perimeter fence along Mando Road, Kaduna," Anas said. He further stated that no casualty was recorded in the incident.
Reacting to the multiple bomb blasts in Kaduna, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has commiserated with the Nigerian Armed Forces over the attacks on their facilities by suspected bombers.
The speaker equally commiserated with the government and people of Kaduna State over the incidence.
In a statement issued by his media aide, Imam Imam, Speaker Tambuwal said as men and women of goodwill, Nigerians should not despair over the current security challenges facing the nation.
He said the respect for human life should be utmost to all persons and urged all those who have grievances against the Nigerian state to explore dialogue in sending across their messages.
"Killings and destruction of property will serve no meaningful purpose," the speaker said, adding that with what the country had faced in the last few months, all avenues that would lead to peace, unity and stability must be explored.
THISDAY, nonetheless, gathered that Biu, who appeared before the FDC on January 24, was charged with negligence of duty, which led to the escape of the Christmas bomber, Kabiru Umar, alias Kabiru Sokoto.
The committee's deliberation, which was held behind closed-doors at the force headquarters' conference hall, lasted for over six hours.
The Biu trial was the last assignment performed by the six DIGs before they were fired following the retirement of the former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Hafiz Ringim, two weeks ago.
He appeared before the committee with some of the policemen from whose custody Kabiru Sokoto escaped.
The source disclosed that if eventually Biu is dismissed, he would be prosecuted for his role in the escape.
An informed source on the committee added that Biu was seriously quizzed on the circumstances that led to the escape of Umar, but he pleaded innocent of all the charges against him.
In a related development, at least five Boko Haram members have lost their lives while several others sustained gunshot injuries following a shootout between a combined team of army, policemen and suspected members of the sect at Mariri on the outskirts of Kano municipality on Monday night.
A resident of the area told THISDAY that at about 6pm on Monday, a combined team of army and policemen accosted a man suspected to be a Boko Haram member, who ran and entered a house at Mariri village.
He said there was a heavy exchange of gunfire between the security team and the occupants of the house, revealing that the shootout lasted for over six hours with heavy explosions that shook the entire place.
THISDAY learnt that a bungalow, which was at the centre of the exchange of gunfire, was left shattered while the corpses of two victims were mutilated but the body of one of the victims was later found.
It was learnt that when the security team gained access into the house, they discovered a large trench dug in the middle of the house in which they discovered about 10 AK47 riffles, large magazines and ammunitions, as well as bags of fertiliser.
The Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, confirmed the discovery, stating that 10 AK47 riffles, 26 magazines, 106 ammunition and seven bags of fertiliser were recovered in the house. He also said several arrests had been made and no deaths were recorded.
BY JOHN SHIKLAM , IBRAHIM SHUAIBU , YEMI AKINSUYI AND SENATOR IROEGBU

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