Nigeria

Boko Haram Issues 3-Day Ultimatum to Southerners

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Emma Johnson and Anthony Awunor in Lagos

Abuja — THE bloody Islamic sect, Boko Haram, yesterday issued an ultimatum to Christians living in the Northern part of the country to leave.

The sect threatened to confront soldiers following President Goodluck Jonathan's declaration of state of emergency in troubled areas in the country.

A release sent to some media houses by the spokesman for Boko Haram said the group believed that soldiers would kill Muslims in the affected local government areas and that they have information of imminent attacks on northerners resident in the southern part of the country.

But the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Kingsley Kuku, has said in spite of the very provocative antics of the Boko Haram Islamic sect, the Niger Delta had no thought of attacking northerners or Muslims in the area.

Abul Qaqa, who spoke on behalf of Boko Haram blamed the Federal Government for scores of attacks in the country in the past, stressing that he was giving southerners living in the north a three-day ultimatum to leave.

'We find it pertinent to state that soldiers will only kill innocent Muslims in the local government areas where the state of emergency was declared,' he told journalists in a telephone conference late Sunday.

'We would confront them squarely to protect our brothers,' he added.

Speaking in the Hausa language, Qaqa stressed: 'we also wish to call on our fellow Muslims to come back to the north because we have evidence that they would be attacked.

'We are also giving a three-day ultimatum to the southerners living in the northern part of Nigeria to move away,' he said.

Boko Haram is believed to include different factions with varying aims. Its structure remains unclear and other people have claimed to speak on its behalf.

Northerners have been mostly hit by the Boko Haram attacks, but a wave of Christmas day bombings particularly targeting churches set off fears of retaliation from Christians.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on Saturday in parts of four states hard hit by violence blamed on Boko Haram.

The declaration came in response to scores of attacks attributed to Boko Haram, particularly the bombings on Christmas that killed 49 people, most of them in a gruesome blast at a Catholic church outside Abuja as the service was ending.

Qaqa also criticised Jonathan for visiting the church, where 44 died in the explosion on Saturday.

'The President had never visited any of the theatres where Muslims were massacred,' he said, naming areas where scores of Muslims were killed in post-election riots in April.

While Boko Haram has been carrying out increasingly deadly attacks for months, including an August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that left 25 dead, the Christmas violence sparked intense fear and outrage.

It also led to warnings from Christian leaders that they would defend themselves if such attacks continued, raising deep concern.

While declaring the state of emergency in Africa's largest oil producer, Jonathan acknowledged that the attacks 'have threatened our collective security and shaken the foundations of our corporate existence as a nation.'

It was declared in parts of the states of Borno, where Boko Haram has traditionally had its base, as well as Niger, Plateau and Yobe.

In Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, residents reported increased patrols on Monday.

Soldiers had been entering homes in search of weapons and bombs, they said.

After the searches, soldiers told residents to report any unusual behaviour or abandoned vehicles which may contain planted bombs.

Kuku, however, believes that the recent bold security measures taken by President Jonathan will in the coming days curb the activities of the sect.

Kuku, who spoke with correspondents in Lagos, insisted that the reported attack on a mosque in Sapele, Delta State, was an isolated case and should not be seen as a reprisal attack.

'The President has said it all, what Boko Haram is doing is pure terrorism. What the sect is doing has nothing to do with Islam neither can any one say the sect is propagating a northern agenda. It is terrorism, pure and simple.

The wicked activities of Boko Haram are affecting both Christians and Muslims.

The bombs they have been throwing have been killing Northerners and Southerners,' the presidential adviser said, adding that Niger Deltans do not have any reason whatsoever to attack northern or Muslim targets.

'Beyond the declaration of state of emergency in certain parts of states in the north where Boko Haram cells are very active, I am very much aware of other unprecedented security measures that have been put in place by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

Based on what I know as a Presidential Adviser, I can confidently tell Nigerians that the days of Boko Haram are numbered,' Kuku added.

He said that the successful management of the Presidential Amnesty Programme has restored relative peace in the Niger Delta and promised that the gains attained in the zone so far would be seriously consolidated in the New Year.

Kuku said that in the New Year, the Federal Government would doggedly pursue infrastructural development in the Niger Delta.

'Yes, the Amnesty Programme has brought peace to the Niger Delta; it is however time to utilise the conducive atmosphere in the region to tackle infrastructural decay, environmental degradation, pollution and gas flaring in the zone.

We must now prevent those situations in the Niger Delta that bred agitation and militancy in the first place.

That is the focus of the Federal Government now.'