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Explosions rock Maiduguri after president’s visit

Goodluck Jonathan 03099

President Goodluck Jonathan and Borno elders yesterday in Maiduguri disagreed on the continued stay of the Security Joint Task Force in the state, with the president insisting he would only withdraw the JTF if the elders are willing to enter into an agreement with the government to be held liable should there be any killing by the Boko Haram sect.

Few hours after the President left Maiduguri, seven loud explosions shook the city, with the explosions happening within minutes of each other.

The Borno elders made the request for the withdrawal of the JTF during a Town Hall meeting with the President in Maiduguri, as part of Jonathan’s visit to the state.
The JTF, Operation Restore Order, was deployed to the state at the peak of the Boko Haram crisis, but the president said he was dissatisfied with the plea for its withdrawal.

He insisted that if the elders of the state were not ready to move against the insurgency and see it brought to an end then �they should be ready to live with the pains that it has created and perhaps forget issues of development.”

He said no one was interested in militarizing any part of the country especially Borno State, �but because the situation called for it.”
Jonathan said: “I am not comfortable with the way you spoke; the conclusion from the speakers is that there are so many bunkers in Borno or Maiduguri. I am not impressed with the way some spoke especially on the issue of bunkers. Do you think the federal government is comfortable paying the allowances of keeping them (soldiers) here?”

The President said he was not happy seeing security men killed in any part of the country: �It is wrong to feast on them or celebrate their killing for protecting the lives of Nigeria and keeping the country united.
Jonathan agreed to continue the task of admonishing security men to conduct themselves professionally, but said “no one should see the killing of a soldier as a cause for celebration.”

“From what I gathered from the governor of Yobe during my visit, the problem (Boko Haram) is coming down. It is coming down in Adamawa, in Gombe, in Bauchi and in Niger but in Borno we still have some problems. So, if you elders will not condemn it, you will continue to suffer under the terror of Boko Haram because without peace, we cannot develop Borno,” the President said.

The stakeholders at the meeting asked for amnesty for the sect, withdrawal of soldiers and institution of Marshall plan, among others.
One of the speakers, Prof. Nur Alkali, a former Vice Chancellor of University of Maiduguri said the crisis had brought untold hardship to the people of the state, �after government ordered the first bullet to be shot to nip the crisis in the bud.”

Alkali said: “There is no one in the hall that has not lost a close relation or friends to the crisis. When a soldier is killed, there is a retaliation with corpses littering the streets.”
He added that since the militants have come out to embrace dialogue and cease-fire, they should be embraced and encouraged, insisting: “There is no alternative to dialogue. And since they talked about peace, we should work towards it, though it may take some time to achieve.”

The member representing Marte/Monguno/Nganzai constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Mohammed Monguno said the soldiers have to act professionally but their contributions �cannot be wished away since the little peace existing in the state may be non-existing without their presence.”

Also speaking, elder statesman, Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno said since no one prayed that the nation should disintegrate as predicted by some, �everyone needs to do something to prevent this.”

Monguno said the nation’s founding fathers came together with a spirit of living peacefully together and respecting one another, �though we have our differences; we should not let the labour of our heroes past be in vain.”

Earlier, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima said the task of unearthing the “ghosts Boko Haram” (a reference to Jonathan’s statement that the government cannot grant amnesty to a faceless group) is that of the government �and it must be taken seriously.”
He said: “Mr. President sir, I deliberately delayed the most important issue that should occupy the minds of all of us here. That is the much discussed issue of peace negotiations especially with the recent offer of cease-fire made by some members in the leadership of the Jama’atu Ahlil Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, Boko Haram in common parlance.

�As a people and government of the state most affected by this insurgency, we most passionately welcome this development because the peace process must start from one step. Getting just a person can lead to getting hundreds and more. Our focus must be on the way forward and not to be stiff or go down to distraction.

�It is our duty to unearth the ghosts that we seek to negotiate with. To draw a lesson from the works of an American author, Robert Fulghum, we must know and accept that peace is not something we just wish for; it’s something we have to make ourselves, it is a gift we offer to ourselves.

�We do not do a favour to anyone by charting the course of peace because trouble is mobile, it steadily comes to our safe homes when we fail to share efforts to stop it from breathing in the very far.”
There was no word on casualties after yesterday’s multi explosions in Maiduguri. The JTF spokesman for for Borno state was not immediately available for comment.

“I heard seven explosions successively. They were huge, but I have no way of knowing whether the explosions hurt anybody,” Jajeri resident Usman Abubakar told Reuters by telephone after the blasts.

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