News / Africa

Nigeria Launches 'Soft Approach' to Counter Boko Haram

People look at the damage on March 2, 2014, after two explosions struck Nigeria's restless northeastern city of Maiduguri, a stronghold of Boko Haram Islamists.
People look at the damage on March 2, 2014, after two explosions struck Nigeria's restless northeastern city of Maiduguri, a stronghold of Boko Haram Islamists.
Heather Murdock
Nigeria's national security adviser has unveiled plans for a new non-military strategy to combat a four-and-half year old Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of people.  The strategy would complement, not replace, military efforts to fight radical sect Boko Haram.  

About 10 months ago Nigeria launched its biggest military push ever against Boko Haram insurgents, imposing emergency rule on three northeastern states. Many urban centers were quickly secured, but the violence continued in the countryside.  More recently, northern cities have again come under attack.  Human Rights Watch says 700 people have been killed this year alone.

Amid the growing violence, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki says the government will take a “soft approach” to counter terrorism, in addition to military efforts.

“My approach has been to understand the problem in order to apply the appropriate solutions. What we have learned is that there is not one particular path that leads to terrorism.  Rather, there are many, often complicated, paths that lead to terrorism.”

Poverty, social injustice, isolation and sectarianism are among the causes of insurgency, he says. And prison reform, economic development, peace talks and educating the public are among the solutions.

Under the plan, two prisons will become “de-radicalization” facilities.  The next step, Dasuki says, is to train the staff.

“The initiative will require substantial capacity building of prison staff in areas such as psychology, sport and art therapy, faith-based instructors and vocational training experts that would engage beneficiaries.”

Another key tenet of the “soft approach” to counter terrorism, he says, is economic reform in northeastern Nigeria, where most people live in abject poverty, fueling the insurgency.
But the insurgency also makes the region poor, adds Gbenro Olajuyigbe, a human security manager at anti-poverty organization ActionAid.  The soft approach, he adds, needs to follow better security on the ground.

“If people are in insecure environment -- economics has collapsed, rights have collapsed, there is an intrusion of fear -- I think the best thing to do is to stabilize the country first.”

The United Nations calls the Boko Haram insurgency “increasingly monstrous,” saying nearly half a million people have fled their homes, and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries. Farmers have also abandoned their fields, threatening food security in many areas.

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by: Ofugocho from: Benue
March 20, 2014 2:45 AM
I think it is a very good idea, since uses of firearms by Nigeria army to control the insurgency is also affecting people's living. It is not perfect if securing of lives and property as claimed by security forces becomes threat to defenceless innocent citizen. Therefore, all we need is any measure that could be used without causing more harm to this innocent citizen to end the insurgency. The idea is welcome.

by: Ofugocho from: Benue
March 20, 2014 2:45 AM
I think it is a very good idea, since uses of firearms by Nigeria army to control the insurgency is also affecting people's living. It is not perfect if securing of lives and property as claimed by security forces becomes threat to defenceless innocent citizen. Therefore, all we need is any measure that could be used without causing more harm to this innocent citizen to end the insurgency. The idea is welcome.

by: Never ask from: Zaria
March 18, 2014 5:32 PM
Nigeria army is gallant for every,is al abt northen polician, it is them dat boko cum 4rm in order spoid anoda peson govern, so it is dem dat cn stop dis.

by: uzoma from: lagos
March 18, 2014 5:18 PM
the idea of soft approach is not the best option. we need to go back to our identity and core values. boko haram should be stopped for now. let the big men who know them advice them better. African core values of sanctity of life, fear of God and consequences of human killings should be taught our people. this will check the menace and nothing more. thank you.

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