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Government Confirms Seize Fire with Boko Haram

The federal government has disclosed that it is in talks with the Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, on a possible ceasefire, with the ultimate aim of securing a permanent cessation of hostilities.

This is the first time in years the government has said it is talking to Boko Haram about a ceasefire in an insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged the North-east of Africa’s biggest economy.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has, however, repeatedly said it was willing to hold talks with the terrorists.

The talks on a ceasefire was disclosed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed in an email to Reuters, outlining the background to the release of more than 104 schoolgirls returned last week by the group after their kidnapping on February 19 from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, Yobe.

It was the biggest mass abduction since Chibok four years ago when the same group took 276 girls from a school in neighbouring Borno State, sparking global outrage over the kidnapping.

But Boko Haram stunned Dapchi’s residents last Wednesday when they drove into the town and returned the girls, who said five of their group had died in captivity and one had not been freed.

The minister’s revelation on the ceasefire talks came on the heels of the open letter written by civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), to the president urging him to drop the proposed policy to grant amnesty to members of Boko Haram.

“Unknown to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now,” said Mohammed. “We were able to leverage on the wider talks when the Dapchi girls were abducted.”

“The ultimate aim is the permanent cessation of hostilities,” he later told Reuters by telephone.

Mohammed said the week-long ceasefire, starting on March 19, had been agreed to enable the group to drop off the girls.

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