On 20 July, a group identifying itself as Yusufiyya Islamic Movement (YIM) emerged from the ranks of the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, which is currently locked in battle with Nigerian military and other security operatives in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
In an unsigned two-page leaflet distributed at various wards and in the Post Office area of Maiduguri, the group condemned all attacks on homes and places of worship, which it said were carried out by “people with evil motives” who had “infiltrated our genuine struggle”. It also declared a unilateral ceasefire during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which, for this year, is scheduled to start around 1 August.
In its leaflet, the group stated that: “The Yusufiyya Movement has come to mean different things to different people in the last few months. This confusion and misinterpretation have made it necessary for us to come out publicly with the clear truth with regards to our concept, struggle, aim and ultimate objective”. The statement said the clarification had also become necessary “in the light of genuine concern by individuals and groups to the mass suffering of innocent citizens caught in the crossfire between our members and the Nigerian troops”.
Providing the background to its emergence, the group said it was saddened by the July 2009 killing of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and the destruction and confiscation of members’ landed and moveable property in Maiduguri. It said it therefore resolved “to wage a struggle between justice and injustice, between truth and falsehood, right against wrong”.
The group said: “Ours is a clear fight for the blood of our founder, Mohammed Yusuf, and other leaders who were slain in cold blood by (former Borno State governor) Ali Modu Sheriff, the former Borno State Commissioner of Police and the late (President) Umaru Musa Yar’Adua”. It noted that “Yar’Adua has since been seized by Allah” in an answer to the sect’s prayer for divine support against his aggression.
The group further stated that in prosecuting its campaign, it had become concerned that “some people with evil motives have infiltrated our genuine struggle with a false Holy War that is outright un-Islamic”. It said it had therefore become necessary to “distance our group from all the bombings targeted at civilians and other establishments and equally condemn them and pray that Allah exposes those who perpetrated them and attributed them to us”.
The statement said the public needed to know that YIM is not an organisation of heartless terrorists, arsonists or robbers, which those other elements who had infiltrated the group with a diabolical agenda were portraying it to be.
Declaring the group’s confidence of victory in its struggle, the statement called on those it had referred to as “evil” infiltrators to desist from their indiscriminate acts of violence, “failing which we shall have no option than to expose and hunt them”.
The group finally said: “We have resolved to temporarily halt our fight against the assassination of our leaders in compliance with the prohibition of fighting in the holy month of Ramadan”.
There are no indications as to the identities of those leading this group. Boko Haram had always been a shadowy organisation and the leaflet distinguishing YIM from the wider group was not signed by anyone. However, there had been some earlier indications of cracks within the group.
Significantly, on 14 June, the Deputy Governor of the Borno State, Alhaji Zanna Mustapha, had disclosed that Boko Haram had three factions, and that one of the factions had shown willingness to commence talks. It has not been ascertained whether YIM was one of the three factions the deputy governor was referring to, or whether this is an entirely new development.
There has also been no reaction from Boko Haram’s usual spokesman, Abu Zaid.
ON ALLEGATIONS THAT BOKO HARAM WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR RECENT ATTACKS ON BANKS IN SOME NORTHERN STATES:
Abu Zaid, Boko Haram spokesman: “Let me confirm to you that our warriors had actually attacked three banks, namely Bank PHB, First Bank of Nigeria and Unity Bank, where they carted away huge sums of money. We took the measure because the mode of operations of the banks was not based on Islamic tenets…If the banks continued to operate contrary to Islamic code, monies snatched from them remain legitimate. We are out to eliminate all aspects of ills in socio-economic affairs of the people which go contrary to the Sharia legal system”.
ON CHARGES THAT BOKO HARAM SENT A THREAT LETTER TO UNIVERSITY OF MAIDUGURI, FORCING CLOSURE OF THE SCHOOL:
Abu Zaid, Boko Haram spokesman: “For someone to accuse us of threatening, attacking a university, is like those behind the claims have underrated our capability; because our determination is to attack the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Of what benefit will it be when we attack a small institution?”
ON CHARGES THAT SOLDIERS ARE VIOLATING HUMAN RIGHTS IN MAIDUGURI:
Borno Elders Forum, led by Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno: “The soldiers have been burning down cars, killing innocent passers-by, looting private property, harassing innocent passerby and even raping young girls…The presence of thousands of weapons brandishing soldiers on the streets of Maiduguri has turned the situation into a nightmare, the worst Maiduguri has ever seen”.
“Hundreds of youths have been shot and killed by soldiers for no known reason other than they are young people. Many communities have been sacked and people in their thousands are fleeing Maiduguri and the level of human suffering in Maiduguri has reached its peak and Borno is faced with horrific and horrendous humanitarian crisis”.
Major General Jack Nwaogbo, Commander of Joint Task Force in Borno State: “The JTF wishes to draw the attention of the public to some allegations against the personnel of the JTF…One of such allegations was that hundreds of youths have been shot and killed by soldiers for no known reason other than they are young people…No member (of the JTF) is involved in violation… The cordon-and-search carried out is properly supervised by members of all security agencies”.
Gen Andrew Azazi, National Security Adviser: Soldiers deployed in any part of Nigeria must behave responsibly at all times. Unfortunately, when you are the target of a bomb attack, there is the possibility that you react in a manner not approved by the people. There is need for cooperation from all sides: the military, the people and everybody”.
Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State: “The most important thing is for us to put in place mechanisms for ensuring that the excesses of the JTF, who are operating under a very tense environment, are curtailed. We are going to provide hotlines and oblige the JTF with a code of conduct – rules of engagement – so that they do not break the rights of the people”.
ON DEMANDS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS FROM MAIDUGURI, BORNO STATE
Borno Elders Forum, led by Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno: “Borno elders have demanded the immediate withdrawal of all soldiers on the streets of Maiduguri because the soldiers have been burning down houses, killing innocent people and looting private property”.
Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State: “With no intent to denigrate or question the motives of eminent personalities agitating for withdrawal of the JTF from the state, I regret to note that none has offered a tangible yet sustainable alternative to fill the security vacuum to be created in the event of the withdrawal of the JTF…It’s quite easy to agitate, to call for the removal of the JTF, but what is Plan B?”
ON PROPOSALS TOWARDS RESOLVING THE CRISIS:
Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (retd), new Minister for Police Affairs: “We (the government) will explore dialogue with any aggrieved persons, so that peace will reign in Nigeria. Where that does not work, but I hope that it will work, we will look at what else we can do to guarantee peace, because peace must be guaranteed in Nigeria”.
Federal lawmakers from Borno State: “Dialogue should commence with unconditional amnesty so that when people are coming to the table, they are not coming with swords and guns pointing on their necks and heads. We believe that engaging the elements in an honest process is better than guns, so that peace and unity can return to Maiduguri and, consequently, to the northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large’’.
Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State: “Once again, I wish to beseech my brothers in the Jama’atul ahlul sunnah lidda’awati wal jihad (the name preferred by Boko Haram) to lay down their arms and come and dialogue with us, for indeed this is the only way we can move our beleaguered state forward…Our doors are open for constructive dialogue and a speedy resolution to this state of insecurity”.
Abu Zaid, Boko Haram spokesman: “All soldiers deployed to Borno as part of the Joint Task Force must be withdrawn before any dialogue could be opened with government”.
Barrister Sadau Garba, lawyer of late Boko Haram sect leader, Muhammad Yusuf, in letter to President Jonathan, urging dialogue with Boko Haram: “Do not involve the traditional rulers and the major Islamic groups in reaching the group or resolving the problem, because the members of the group do not have any respect for them but rather consider them as part of the problem”.
Dr. Olasupo Ayokunle, Secretary-General, Nigerian Baptist Convention: “They (Boko Haram) don’t deserve any form of dialogue or glove treatment. They have committed crime against humanity. They should be brought to book. Dialogue should be the last resort and it should even come after the group might have served out the punishment for their heinous crimes”.
ON BOMB ATTACKS AGAINST CHURCHES:
Muslim Rights Concern, a Muslim rights organisation based in Lagos: “A bomb exploded at the All Christian Fellowship Church on Church Road, Suleja in Niger State on Sunday, 10th July, 2011…We, of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), totally and unreservedly condemn this and all violent attacks….The Qur’an forbids the use of force except when Muslims are attacked (2:190). There is no evidence that the Christians inside the Suleja church had attacked Muslims.
We charge the security agencies to unveil the identities of these blood-thirsty extremists. Steps must also be taken to secure churches from future attacks…Christians and Muslims are from one Father of Faith (Abraham). Religion is designed to link people in love. There is no religion that teaches violence”.
ON DECISION BY STATE SECURITY SERVICE NOT TO PROSECUTE OVER 100 ARRESTED BOKO HARAM MEMBERS:
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND): “This is a blatant disregard to all Christians in Nigeria killed with impunity and also an insult to all Niger Deltans as the government is displaying double standards as regards the Niger Delta indigenes falsely and unlawfully arrested over the October 1st bomb blast carried out by our field operatives.
For this attitude…the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) is preparing very hard for the resumption of hostilities with the training of new fighters joining our various camps and promises that the results will be felt both nationally and internationally, very soon”.
On 13 July, the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, for the first time, said it would agree to a “temporary ceasefire”, if the Federal Government withdraws the soldiers on the military Joint Task Force from the streets of Maiduguri, the embattled capital of Borno State.
The group laid down this condition just a day after a Borno Elders Forum, comprising 18 elderly and prominent persons from Borno State, called on the Federal Government to “immediately withdraw” the soldiers from Maiduguri streets, alleging human rights violations and continuing deterioration of the security situation. The elders had also pleaded with the militant group, to cease hostilities on humanitarian grounds, considering the sufferings of fellow Muslims, especially in Maiduguri. It is not known whether that appeal may have persuded the group to now set its condition for the “temporary ceasefire”.
The Abuja-based newspaper, Daily Trust, further reports that in a telephone interview with some journalists in Borno State, Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on some banks in Borno, Bauchi and other states, where the attackers made away with huge but unspecified amounts of money.
The group’s spokesman, Abu Zaid, said the banks were attacked because their operations contravened Islamic tenets, and that the attacks were aimed at reforming the banking system. He is quoted as saying: “Let me confirm to you that our warriors had actually attacked three banks, namely Bank PHB, First Bank of Nigeria and Unity Bank, where they carted away huge sums of money. We took the measure because the mode of operations of the banks was not based on Islamic tenets”.
Asked if such attacks, which may otherwise be seen as robberies, were permissible in Islam, Abu Zaid said: “If the banks continued to operate contrary to Islamic code, monies snatched from them remain legitimate. We are out to eliminate all aspects of ills in socio-economic affairs of the people which go contrary to the Sharia legal system”.
Abu Zaid also reportedly reiterated Boko Haram’s earlier denial of responsibilty for the threat letter that contributed to the closure of the University of Maiduguri. He said: “For someone to accuse us of threatening, (or) attacking a university, is like those behind the claims have underrated our capability; because our determination is to attack the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Of what benefit will it be when we attack a small institution?”
On 11 July,authorities at the University of Maiduguri ordered that the institution be closed indefinitely, with effect from 12 July, citing the deteriorating security situation in the city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. Some 35,000 students are enrolled in the public university.
The Registrar of the university, Alhaji Babagana Aji, said the decision to close the institution was taken at an emergency meeting of the school’s administration chaired by the vice chancellor. A statement signed by the university’s Chief Information Officer, Ahmed Mohammed, said all students are to vacate the campus on Tuesday, 12 July. The students had been scheduled to start their first semester examinations on 15 August, but authorities said the university will reopen only when the security situation in Maiduguri improves.
University officials say intensifying clashes between Boko Haram fighters and the military task force have made movements in the city increasingly difficult – and dangerous. Mohammed said: “There is restriction of movement in Maiduguri and most of our students are staying off campus”.
Besides the situation in the streets, a further development that must have prompted the closure is a letter reportedly sent to the university’s authorities on 10 July, by a group claiming to be Boko Haram. The said letter demanded that the school be shut down before the end of July or risk becoming the group’s next target. The letter reportedly read in part: “Our next target now is the university, which is our main target right from time (sic). We give the school authorities till end of this month or before the beginning of Ramadan to release you all, if not something very bad will happen”. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a period devoted to fasting, prayer and charity-giving, starts on 1 August this year.
However, in a twist to the development, Boko Haram has denied sending any warning or threat of an imminent attack to the university. The Abuja-based newspaper, Daily Trust, reports the group, through its usual spokesperson, Abu Zaid, as saying: “The letter must be the handy work of some people, but it is definitely not from us”.
In spite of the clarification by the group, the school will remain closed indefinitely.
On 27 June, at least two girls were killed and three Customs officers seriously wounded as armed men staged a daylight assault on a Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) office in Maiduguri, Borno State.
According to Maj. Gen. Jack Okechukwu Nwaogbo, commander of a military Joint Task Force recently deployed to deal with the deepening insecurity in the north-eastern states, the attackers struck while officials were holding a meeting inside the office. The exact nature of the blast was not immediately known, but the general said the assault included bomb blasts and gunfire.
He told an AFP correspondent that: “Three Customs officers were seriously injured in the attack while two child vendors – both of them girls – were killed in the blast”.
However, residents and witnesses later reported higher casualty figures, saying the real toll could be as high as 10 or 12.
Authorities believe the attackers were members of the militant Islamist group, known locally as Boko Haram, which wants to install an Islamic regime across northern Nigeria, based strictly on Shariah law. The group has been blamed for many bomb attacks and assassinations since mid-2010 and has itself claimed responsibility for several others.
On 16 June, it carried out what was apparently a suicide attack on the national police headquarters in Abuja, in which at least two people were killed and over 70 cars burnt. On 26 June, a handful of men believed to be members of the group hurled three bombs into a beer garden in Maiduguri, killing at least 25 people. Boko Haram has not yet claimed responsibility for that attack.
The new governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kassim Shettima, who assumed office on 29 May had tried to open talks with the group. He has the go-ahead of President Goodluck Jonathan who said on 8 June, that the government would apply a “carrot and stick” approach in dealing with the Boko Haram challenge.
But Shettima’s overtures to the group suffered a setback after his government procured 10 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) for the police and the Inspector General of Police said Boko Haram’s days were numbered. The group said those actions and pronouncements and what it sees as the continued militarisation of Borno State, have undermined any progress towards the conference table.
In an interview with the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper on 24 June, Boko Haram spokesman Abu Zaid, said the federal government was asking his group to disarm at the same time as it was rearming security forces that had violated past agreements. He quoted the Prophet Muhammad as saying, “A believer should not allow himself to be attacked twice in one place”. He added, significantly, that the group is fighting for a sovereign land under Islamic law, which might then engage in dialogue with what he called “the country of the unbelievers”.
However, the Public Relations Officer of the Borno State Police Command, Mr Lawal Abdullahi, has said the APCs and other security equipment acquired by the police are “not aimed at harming or confronting any person or group” but are meant to protect the lives and property of everyone. The police say the “doors for dialogue and constructive criticism” will remain open, and are calling on all citizens to reject violence and sectarian killings.
On 26 June, the former governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Muhammad Danjuma Goje, tendered a public apology to the militant Islamist group, popularly known as Boko Haram, for whatever wrong he might have done to it during the outbreak of the Boko Haram crisis in the north-eastern states in 2009.
The apology was prompted by an interview granted by the Boko Haram spokesman, Abu Zaid, and published in the Daily Trust newspaper on 24 June. In that interview, the group had blamed Goje and two other governors for their alleged roles in the Boko Haram crisis.
Responding, Goje’s statement reads:
“My attention has been drawn to a publication in the Daily Trust of Friday 24th June 2011, following an interview granted the paper by one Abu Zaid , spokesperson for the Jama’atu Ahli Sunnah Lidaawati wal Jihad demanding a public apology from me, for my role as the then Governor of Gombe State at the outbreak of the Boko Haram crisis in the North East.
“As a true Muslim, who believes in peace and brotherhood, as entrenched in both the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), I hereby tender my PUBLIC APOLOGY to the organisation for any wrong done to it in the course of performing my duty as the then Governor of Gombe State.
“We pray to Allah (SWT) to continue to promote Islam, peace and brotherhood for humanity throughout the world.”
Goje, 58, was governor of Gombe State from May 2003 to May 2011. It was during his tenure that the Boko Haram uprising erupted in July 2009, but security agencies were able to prevent the violence from extending to Gombe State. However, Goje, as governor, shared the very strong feelings which most people expressed towards Boko Haram and its deadly activities at the time.
In one notable incident, at the opening of a national executive council (NEC) meeting of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Gombe in August 2009, he had described the furor in the media over the killing of the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, as uncalled for, saying: “Anyone who kills must definitely die, no matter how.”
He had further said that: “These people killed innocent souls just because they want everybody to be in their camp. I am a victim of their dastardly act as one of my cousins, a promising young man who was getting on top of his God-chosen career as a police officer, was killed by these people in Maiduguri”.
“We should consider the tremendous work done by the security operatives and not over-stress the killings of the sect members. I will not want to say more because already the matter is under investigation”.
Goje’s apology, just two years later, is eliciting different reactions from members of the public. One observer has described it as “an afterthought, an act of cowardice, typical of a political class that cannot stand by its word, and is now intimidated by Boko Haram and other groups in the country”.
Another however welcomes the apology, saying that “Goje’s harsh words were merely a reflection of popular feelings at the time”, also as his own direct relation had been tragically killed. The observer therefore urges Boko Haram to accept Goje’s “admission of error and prompt issuance of apology” as a gesture of humility and reconciliation”. He argues that it is “only honest gestures of this kind, rather than stubborn insistence on self-righteousness”, that can lead to a just and lasting solution to conflicts in society.
On 16 June, the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which had already claimed responsibility for the bombing incident at the Police headquarters in Abuja, reportedly added that it did not accomplish its mission because the main target was the “Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim”.
Some sources, including the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper, have cited a statement by a Boko Haram leader, Abu Zaid, which said the attack was also to dispel any doubts about the group’s capabilities.
In the statement, Boko Haram said: “Of recent, he (Ringim) has been going to places and making unguarded utterances to the effect that he will crush us in a number of days…This is unfortunate. We attack his base (police headquarters) in order to show him that action speaks louder than words”.
Some police sources say the motorcade of the police chief had driven into the compound of the police headquarters just minutes before the blast. They say the bomber had trailed him into the compound and set off the bomb after he had been accosted by the traffic police and was being guided, in his car, to a thorough search.
The Boko Haram statement said it regretted missing its target, but that members of the sect will launch more attacks at the police headquarters. It added that: “We would not relent and, by the grace of God, we shall see who is on the right track”.
However, the authenticity of the statement could not be verified.
On 31 May, a man who gave his name as Abu Zaid (or Zayd) and claimed to be the deputy spokesman of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, told the BBC Hausa Service that his group was responsible for the post-inauguration blasts in Bauchi, Zaria and Zuba near the Federal capital, in which at least 17 people were killed.
The man, who spoke via telephone, told the BBC’s Hausa Service that some serving members of the Nigerian army had been used to carry out the bombings in the Bauchi barracks on 30 May. He said the soldiers had approached the sect, seeking to join its ranks, and that they were sent to bomb the barracks, as a test of their loyalty to Boko Haram.
Abu Zaid said the group was also responsible for killing Abba Anas Ibn Umar Garbai, younger brother of the Shehu of Borno, the second-highest Muslim leader in Nigeria, who was gunned down outside his home in Maiduguri, on 30 May. The Shehu of Borno is one of the most prominent Muslim figures in Nigeria – second only to the Sultan of Sokoto, the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslims.
”We are the ones responsible for the killing of the junior brother of the Shehu of Borno,” Zayd said. “As we always say, these traditional institutions are being used to track and hunt us, that is why we attack them”.
He told the radio station, which broadcasts in Hausa languge in northern Nigeria, that the sect did not believe in the Nigerian constitution and he repeated a call for sharia (Islamic law) to be imposed nationwide.
“We are doing what we are doing to fight injustice. If they stop their satanic ways of doing things and the injustices, we would stop what we are doing,” Zayd said.
However, the Nigerian army spokesman Brig Gen Raphael Isa rejected the allegation of any soldiers planning to desert the Nigerian Army and join the sect.
“It is not correct”, he told the BBC News website. “Let him publish the names of those pledging loyalty to Boko Haram. This is not a banana republic. We are one army united and very, very loyal”.
The BBC could not verify the caller’s identity or his claims.