The United Kingdom Government is finalising plans to designate Boko Haram, whose activities have been outlawed in Nigeria, a terrorist organisation.
Also to be affected by the impending ban, which is coming two days after suspected members of Boko Haram killed 32 people in an attack on Government Secondary School, Mamudo, in Yobe State, is a British-based Islamist extremist group, Minbar Ansar Deen, also known as Ansar al-Sharia UK.
The killing of 30 students, a teacher and resident of Mamudo elicited more reactions Monday as the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), led by Plateau State Governor, Chief Jonah Jang, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) condemned the attack on the school.
The proposal to ban the two terrorist groups is coming one month after the designation of three Boko Haram leaders — Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid el Barnawi — as terrorists by the United States and will give further fillip to efforts by the international community to assist Nigeria in fighting the Islamic group.
Besides the designation of the trio as terrorists, the US in June placed a $7 million bounty on Shekau’s head in a bid to encourage the public to give out information that could lead to his arrest.
A report Monday by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said at least 3,600 people had been killed since 2009 by either the terrorist group or troops deployed in the terror zone to rout the insurgents.
In the meantime, the Presidential Amnesty Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North has announced that the federal government and Boko Haram have signed a ceasefire agreement.
UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, Monday urged the British Parliament to support the government’s decision to designate Boko Haram as a full terrorist organisation.
The motion, if passed, will become effective from Friday paving the way, thenceforth for punitive measures against supporters or collaborators of Boko Haram and Minbar Ansar Deen.
With its passage, the police are also expected to commence investigation into any possible links to Boko Haram in the UK.
Supporters and conspirators of the terror groups will be liable to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of £5,000 with the option of deportation where such culprits are foreigners.
According to government officials, plans are underway to ease the deportation of foreigners indicted for terrorism.
Against the backdrop of the moves by the UK to ban Boko Haram, the HRW, in a report by the Agence France Presse (AFP) Monday, put the death toll from the insurgency and anti-terror war by the military since 2009 at 3,600.
It said the casualties comprised those killed by the Islamic militant group and by security forces.
The report contained a timeline of attacks and casualty figures since the insurgency began in 2009 after Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was extra judicially killed by the police.
According to the HRW, some of the victims were killed by the military in the July 26, 2009 uprising by the insurgents in parts of the north, reprisals in Maiduguri and Jos in which at least 86 people were killed and the August 26, 2011 suicide bombing of the United Nations compound in Abuja, killing at least 25 people.
Others include the November 4, 2011 series of attacks on police targets and churches in Damaturu, Yobe State, in which some 150 people were killed; December 22-23, 2011 attacks on Damaturu, Potiskum and Maiduguri claimed by the group along with a heavy military crackdown that left up to 100 people dead.
Meanwhile, the amnesty committee, chaired by the Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Kabiru Turaki, claimed Monday that government and Boko Haram had signed a ceasefire agreement.
It is uncertain if the ceasefire agreement would hold as several past efforts by the federal government aimed at reaching a truce with the terrorist group have been rebuffed.
The announcement came on the heels of the denial by Boko Haram that it was behind the killing of boarding students in Yobe State last weekend.
Turaki, who spoke on the Hausa service of Radio France International (RFI), explained that with the signing of the ceasefire agreement, the insurgent group has agreed to lay down its arms.
“We have sat down and agreed that Jama’atu Ahlul Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, known as Boko Haram, will lay down their arms as part of the agreement so as to end the insurgency.
“Government agreed to the ceasefire and will look into ways to ensuring that the troops will relax their activities till the final time for the ceasefire,” he added.
A top Boko Haram commander identified as Imam Muhammadu Marwana, confirmed the ceasefire agreement with the government to RFI.
“From the time I am talking to you (on Radio France Hausa Service), we have ceased fire because of the discussion held so as to have peace in this struggle. We are seeking forgiveness from the people over the number of people killed in the country.
“I appeal to those who lost their loved ones to our activities to forgive us and on our side, we have forgiven all those who committed atrocities against us,” he added.
On the killing of the Yobe students, Marwana said: “I want to state clearly that we have no hand in the unfortunate attack on the secondary school.”
Turaki also condemned the killing of the students during a visit to Yola, the Adamawa State capital.
But he cautioned that the committee should not be judged by the killing of the students because the leader of Boko Haram had declared that his group was not behind the killings.
He also said based on the interaction with the security chiefs, stakeholders and the security reports that the amnesty committee had received from the service chiefs on Adamawa State, the security situation was impressive.
“We noticed that normalcy has begun to return to the state and we commend the efforts of the state government, security personnel and the good people of the state for the proactive measures taken to ensure that peace reigns in the state,” he added.
The Yobe killing, however, attracted more condemnation Monday as the PDP expressed shock over the incident, which it described as “monstrous and horrible”.
PDP acting National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Tony Okeke, in a statement in Abuja said the killing of the children was a direct effrontery to God and the height of wickedness only fit for the devil.
According to him, there is no way the perpetrators will get away with the crime as “all forces of nature will collaborate to bring them to book”.
Also, the Director General of Jang’s faction of the NGF, Mr. Osaro Onaiwu, in a statement in Abuja, said it was despicable to attribute such a wicked act as the killing of the students to any religion, stressing that no religion will condone the killing of innocent children.
The faction called on the Joint Task Force (JTF) and all security agencies to ensure that they bring the killers to justice
In his reaction, the Ekiti State governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, described the killings as ungodly, reprehensible and savagery taken too far.
The latest act of terror, according to Fayemi, was an indication that much work still needs to be done on the nation’s security.
He expressed dismay that the attack took place when the state was under emergency rule declared by President Goodluck Jonathan and called for a more strategic approach to the government’s response to the anti-terror war.
The JNI, which is the umbrella body for Muslims, also wondered how the attack was successful despite the heavy security presence in Yobe State.
The JNI, in a statement Monday in Kaduna by its Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said it was unbelievable that such an evil act could happen in view of the state of emergency in the state and security presence in every nook and cranny of the state.
The statement extended the sympathy of JNI to the bereaved families and prayed that God grants them the fortitude to bear the losses.
Following the killing of the students, the federal government Monday said it was working with relevant agencies to beef up security for students and teachers in schools in Yobe State and across the country.
Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, in a statement, expressed condolences to the families and friends of those who died and those injured in the attack.
Amnesty International (AI) also urged the federal government to take actions that would protect schools and protect the right of children to education.
The organisation’s Deputy Director for Africa, Lucy Freeman, in a statement Monday, also called for investigations into the killings in Yobe State.
In another incident, more than 7,000 people were displaced during the weekend in Iyordye, Akaahena and Akuroko villages in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State following attacks by Fulani herdsmen.
The bloody clashes also led to the killing of over 50 people.
Nine bodies have been recovered while scores of others have been declared missing by their respective families.
The local government chairman, Mr. Frank Adii, disclosed this yesterday in Makurdi.
Adii, who lamented the level of destruction and unwarranted killings in the affected communities, said many of the injured had been referred to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital for further treatment.
He said: “Though it is difficult for us at the moment to determine the exact figure of the dead and those that are missing given the nature of the crisis, some of the injured who were initially being treated at the General Hospital have been referred to the teaching hospital in Makurdi because of the seriousness of their condition.
“The situation is bad because we actually have a serious refugee situation on our hands at the moment considering that over 7,000 persons have been displaced by this crisis and we have been able to camp them at Gbajimba.
“We need help because this is beyond the scope of the state and local governments.”