The Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, has distributed a letter requesting dialogue with the Federal Government.
The letter, which was sent through head of journalists in Borno State, Aba Kakami, came less than 72 hours after a double suicide bombing led to the death of at least 17 people at the Protestant Military Church, Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna State.
Kakami has often received and distributed statements from the sect.
According to an international news agency, Reuters, the letter was signed by Sheik Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, a man known in security sources to be a moderate senior member of the sect.
The letter, if genuine, would mark a change of departure of tactics by the group which has been been responsible for many bombings in the country.
Nearly 3,000 people have died violent deaths related to the conflict since the sect launched its uprising in 2009, according to a count by Human Rights Watch. Boko Haram has replaced militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta over that time to become the biggest security threat to Nigeria.
Communication with Boko Haram , which wants imposition of sharia on Nigeria, has been even more sporadic than normal since the military killed its spokesman, Abu Qaqa, in September.
Abdulazeez first contacted journalists in Maiduguri earlier this month, setting conditions for peace talks in the teleconference and nominating former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari , as a mediator. Buhari has since declined the offer.
“We are by this letter of invitation to our respected elders proving to government that we are not joking with the government, but we are awaiting the response of those concerned,” Abdulazeez said in the letter.
Abdulazeez said he was speaking on behalf of Abubakar Shekau, the sect’s leader.
But even if Abdulazeez does represent Shekau, the extent to which Boko Haram is controlled by Shekau is in doubt, and analysts think military pressure has fragmented it.
The letter nominated Imam Gabchiya, an official of the University of Maiduguri, Borno State as mediator.
There was no immediate reaction from Federal Government officials, but President Goodluck Jonathan had said on November 18 that no talks were going on with Boko Haram .
The handover of the letter came three days after the army offered a N290m bounty for information leading to the capture of 19 leading members of the sect.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Olasa’ad Ibrahim, has said that due process will be followed in meting out punishment to soldiers on duty when suicide bombers attacked the military church in Jaji on Sunday
Ibrahim, who was in Kaduna on Tuesday, noted that the board set up to investigate the twin attacks would spell out the appropriate punishment.
He described the incident as sad and pointed out that the military would put some mechanism in place to forestall future occurrence.
The CDS, who spoke with newsmen shortly after visiting the scene, argued that the explosions were least expected.
He said, “We expect that the Board of Enquiry will reflect blame worthiness of the few and then we will treat it on its merit, but we cannot pre-empt what took place and how the bomb-laden vehicles got into the cantonment.
“We also respect due process and the rule of law and there are codes out there that we must insist on because those are the only ways we can render justice but the report itself is the only thing that can define precisely who is to blame and who is not to be blamed and who is to be rewarded for exemplary actions.
“Perhaps with the lesson now, we could not afford to take anything for granted. So, we will put it behind us quickly after the board of inquiry and then we will put some other mechanisms in place to prevent such incident in the future.”
Also,Canada has warned its citizens against all un-essential travels to Nigeria.
In its travel advisory accessed by one of our correspondents on Tuesday, Canada said that “terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could target locations frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, including hotels, bars, markets and shopping centres.”
It therefore enjoined Canadians “to maintain a high level of security awareness in these public areas.”
The travel warning noted that there have been a number of large scale coordinated terrorist attacks over the last few months.
The United Kingdom had in its website, on Monday, also warned its citizens against travels to Borno and Yobe states as well as the riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. Its specifically listed Warri and Kano among the no go areas.