The militant group Boko Haram and the Federal Government have agreed to a ceasefire.
Chief of Defense Staff Alex Badeh issued an order Friday, telling all service chiefs “to comply with the ceasefire agreement between Nigeria and Boko Haram in all theaters of operations.”
The text went out after Danladi Ahmadu, who calls himself the secretary-general of Boko Haram, told VOA that a cease-fire agreement had been reached.
Earlier, Ahmadu and a close advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan, Ambassador Hassan Tukur, told VOA that the sides were holding talks in Saudi Arabia, aided Chadian President Idriss Deby and high-level officials from Cameroon.
Those talks also focused on the release more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram six months ago. There was no immediate word on the fate of the girls.
Ahmadu, who said he is at a location on the Nigerian-Chadian border, said the girls are “in good condition and unharmed.”
On April 14, dozens of Boko Haram fighters stormed a secondary school in the remote northeastern village of Chibok, kidnapping around 270 girls. Fifty-seven managed to escape.
Boko Haram leader “Abubakar Shekau” later threatened to sell the remainder as slave brides, vowing they would not be released until militant prisoners were freed from jail.
Ahmadu would not elaborate on the conditions under which the girls would be freed. The Saudi government is not involved in the negotiations.
President Jonathan has been criticized at home and abroad for his slow response to the kidnapping and for the inability of Nigerian troops to quell the violence by the militants, seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top economy and leading energy producer.
Boko Haram has said it is fighting to establish an Islamic state in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria.
The group has launched scores of attacks in the past five years, targeting markets, bus stations, government facilities, churches and even mosques. Militants recently took over some towns in the northeast for what the group’s leader said would be an Islamic caliphate.
The Nigerian military says the man who appeared in Boko Haram videos as Abubakar Shekau was actually an impostor, and that the real Shekau was killed several years ago.
It says the impostor was killed last month during a battle in the town of Konduga. A new video of the man appeared a few days later but the military has stood by its assertion that the Boko Haram leader is dead.