Kano: The governor of a northern Nigerian state rocked by bomb and shooting attacks blamed on radical Islamists on Saturday urged them to accept a ceasefire and embrace dialogue with authorities.
Kashim Shettima, governor of northeastern Borno State, called on members of the Boko Haram sect that have in recent weeks stepped up bomb and drive-by shooting attacks in the state capital Maiduguri to lay down arms and open talks with his government.
"Once again, I wish to beseech my brothers in the Jama’atul ahlul sunnah lidda’ awati wal jihad 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," he said in a television broadcast.
He was using the name preferred by Boko Haram.
"Our doors are open for constructive dialogue and a speedy resolution to this state of insecurity," said Shettima, who assumed office on May 29.
He also appealed to fleeing residents to stop their exodus from the troubled city. Thousands of residents have fled the city in recent days over alleged rights violations by soldiers.
"This administration is seriously and sincerely concerned about the plight of our people and the rate at which people are leaving the state capital in search of safer zones.
"May I, therefore, seize this opportunity to appeal to our people not to flee, as government is making every effort to contain the situation and restore normalcy," Shettima said.
Shettima had on assumption of office made overtures to sect members and offered amnesty to those who renounced violence, an offer that received the blessing of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Boko Haram had in 2009 waged a short-lived armed uprising in the north in a doomed bid to establish an Islamic state which was crushed in a brutal military assault that left hundreds dead.
Sect members that survived regrouped and resorted to shoot-and-run and bomb attacks against police and military personnel, community and religious leaders, politicians, public buildings, beer gardens, churches and a prison.
The sect has concentrated the attacks in Maiduguri where the military onslaught against the sect took place.