Ceasefire Doubts as Reports of Fighting Emerge in Northeastern NigeriaOctober 20, 2014 in Nigeria
While on Friday, Nigerian officials disclosed that they had agreed to a ceasefire with Boko Haram militants, adding that schoolgirls kidnapped in April would soon be released, doubts emerged over the weekend as witnesses and security sources reported that government forces had engaged in fighting with the militants.
On Friday, a senior aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, Hassan Tukur, announced that an agreement to end the hostilities had been reached following talks between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, with Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade disclosing that the fate of more than 200 missing schoolgirls, who were abducted by the insurgents six months ago, was still being negotiated. Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, confirmed the truce during a meeting in Abuja between Nigerian and Cameroonian military officials Friday, adding that he had ordered his troops to immediately comply with the agreement.
Many Nigerians however quickly expressed their doubts that the five-year insurgency, which has killed thousands and has left hundreds of thousands homeless, could end with a simple cease-fire. There has also been no immediate confirmation from Boko Haram, with some Nigerians believing that this may simply be a move by the Nigerian government to demonstrate that they are winning the war against the militant group. President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to declare his bid for re-election in the coming weeks and any positive news pertaining to the hostages and the violence would likely give him a much needed political boost. Furthermore, previous government and military claims pertaining to the end of the deadly five-year insurgency, and the fate of the missing girls, have left many cautious. Last year, when a government minister charged with negotiations announced an agreement, Boko Haram quickly released a video with its leader, Abubakar Shekau, denying that an agreement had been reached.
Doubts about the ceasefire were further heightened after witnesses and security sources reported that troops from the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army fought dozens of suspected Boko Haram militants in the town of Damboa in Borno state on Sunday evening. The militants had earlier attacked that town of Sabon Gida, also in Borno state. Senior army and intelligence officials have also disclosed that they have not yet received any operational orders pertaining to the ceasefire despite Air Marshal Alex Badeh indicating Friday that he had already ordered his troops to comply with the agreement immediately.