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Nigerian President’s Remarks Seen Aggravating Boko Haram Threat

Clergymen gather around the coffins of the victims of the Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic Church Madalla, during a mass funeral for the victims. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack.

An official of Nigeria’s Bar Association said President Goodluck Jonathan’s pronouncement that his government will end the menace of Boko Haram by the middle of this year could worsen the security crisis in the country.

Husseini Hala, vice president of Nigeria’s Bar Association in Maiduguri, said Boko Haram militants appear to have intensified their attacks in the region following Jonathan’s statement. Hala said residents in areas the Islamist sect attacks often bear the brunt of the violence.

“We are seriously concerned because they have done nothing and the menace is increasing, because [militants] have been killing people day in, day out,” said Hala. “There are a lot of attacks in Maiduguri [and] they come out and attack the military officers face-to-face.”

Critics have accused the government over what they say is the administration’s failure to control growing insecurity in northern Nigeria. They said the government's violent crackdown on suspected Boko Haram members in recent months has escalated violence.

But, the administration said the country’s security agencies are working hard to contain the security problems by the middle of this year.

Hala said residents in northern Nigeria are expressing concern the Nigerian president’s pronouncement irks members of the Islamic sect who, he said, are intensifying attacks on the unarmed population.

“It aggravates it because, before the statement at least, it took two to three days without any attacks. But, when he uttered this statement, it angered [Boko Haram] and they have been attacking frequently,” said Hala. “What the president has been saying is an empty threat. He has been saying all these sorts of things but, security wise, no action has been taken.”

Some Maiduguri residents have often expressed concern the militant group seems to be gaining momentum following recent attacks in northern Nigeria. They also accused security agencies of failing to decisively deal with the challenges posed by the militants.

The militant group claims it was behind a series of suicide bombings on Christian targets in northern Nigeria, including a Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church near Abuja that killed at least 37 people. Boko Haram also targeted police stations and government buildings.

Hala said there is need for the government to engage the Islamist sect in a dialogue to resolve the security challenges.

“The stance of the elders of Maiduguri and the population is that they should look for a way of dialoguing with the members of the Boko Haram, so that we will have an end to this crisis,” said Hala.

Hala said the government should embark on a confidence building measure so residents can help with efforts to combat Boko Haram’s security threat.

“The people they appointed said the government is insincere in its move to see that the crisis is settled. They said, if the government is sincere, they are ready to settle,” said Hala. “This is the view of the people of Borno State. They said the [government] should negotiate with them to see to the end of the crisis.”

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