After series of coordinated attacks on security formations, public and worship places, the Jama’atul Ahlil Sunna lidawati wal Jihad, also called as Boko Haram, declared a conditional cease fire on Monday last week.
The declaration spurred reactions among government agencies and residents of the ancient commercial city of Kano which has witness insurgency related violence in the last one year. On January 20, 2012, the group launched coordinated attacks on several targets in Kano metropolis killing about 200 people and destroying properties worth billions of naira. Since then, the once bubbling city has turned to a shadow of itself, with people living in apparent fear of when and where the next attack will be launched.
Hundreds of non-indigenes are believed to have relocated from the state and residents now live with unprecedented security presence, slowing down activities. Donor agencies have closed shops while foreign government officials working in the state have been relocated to Abuja and some other places that are considered safer. Life in Kano has become miserable to many, and particularly security officials, since the January 2012 attacks.
They are being attacked on daily basis. Indeed there is confusion everywhere with residents not knowing who is against them and who is for them; when and where the next bomb will explode. Penultimate week, the Northern Development Focus Initiative (NDFI) led by its chairman, former governor of North Western state, Alhaji Usman Farouk, organized a three-day summit of northern elders on strategy for a constructive engagement to save the collapsing socio-economic, political and educational standard of northern Nigeria.
Coincidentally, a day after a communiqué was released from the summit, the Boko Haram group declared a ceasefire. The communiqué had called on the Federal Government to grant amnesty to the group as it deed to Niger Delta militants, and also urged government to initiate a ‘restoration, reformation and rehabilitation programme that would reintegrate demilitarized members of the sect into the society. And, when on Monday the group announced a ceasefire, Nigerians, and Kano residents in particular, welcomed the idea and began to suggest what ought to be done to concretise the opportunity. Speaking to Daily Trust, Abdullahi Maikano, a businessman in Sabon Gari market, said he believes the federal government has not shown enough commitment to the restoration of peace in not only Kano State but the entire northern region. He argued that if the government is serious this is the time to prove it by respecting the ceasefire terms and conditions.
“We are tired; we do not even know what the government wants. It will be fighting gunmen this minute and the next victim could be you. I see government playing some politics at the expense of law abiding citizens. With this ceasefire declaration, the truth will surface; and I pray that we have seen the last of bloodshed,” said Maikano.
Many Kano residents who spoke to Daily Trust also expressed happiness as the Boko Haram ceasefire, describing it as a welcome development. Alhaji Mohammed Mansur, a trader at Kwari market said if the ceasefire works, business activities, which are facing serious challenges, will come back to live again.
“You know in the face of persistent violence, business activities have been grounded. In fact we have lost a lot of customers who used to come to Kano on daily basis to buy good from us. I hope with this development, business activities will come back as usual,” he said. Malam Abba Jinjiri, a resident of Gadon Kaya, said he believed residents will witness some peace, and will sleep with their two eyes closed if the proposal works.
“Even these checkpoints and the soldiers we see every day is not something to be happy about. We are grateful to God for bringing this opportunity to end the crisis,” he said. A Kano based scholar, Ustaz Aminudden Abubakar, considered the peace offer as a good omen, urging the federal government to grab the opportunity because this could end the conflict. “It is an offer that the government should not turn down. The authorities should begin dialogue with the sect as soon as possible. The group has to be listened to as they are Nigerians like every one of us,” he said.
He also called on both sides not to renege at the middle of the process of dialogue. “I am calling on both sides to respect each other so that peace will reign in our dear country,” he said. A lecturer at the department of languages Aminu Kano Islamic and Legal Studies also welcomed the ceasefire declaration and urged government to repond appropriately. He said in situations like this there should be no winner, no vanquished. “It is a very good step and I was happy when I heard the news about the ceasefire declaration, because I believe dialogue is the answer to the problem. Now that one party has decided to declare a ceasefire, I think it is left for the other to respect the declaration. In situations like this there is no winner and no vanquished,” he said.