Nigeria says its push against the Boko Haram Islamists is paying off
Nigeria’s “robust” approach to neutralizing a threat posed by Islamist sect Boko Haram using military force, holding indirect talks with the group and improving education in the north is paying off, the Nigerian president said on Wednesday.
Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has been blamed for more than 1,000 deaths since its insurgency intensified in 2010. The United States has designated three of Boko Haram’s senior members as terrorists.
In an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders, President Goodluck Jonathan also played down the significance of the government forces’ killing of the sect’s spokesman, Abu Qaqa, in a gun battle in Kano on September 16.
“If I look at it, the trend is coming down,” he said about the threat posed by Boko Haram. “It’s not because Abu Qaqa is dead. Abu Qaqa is just one person. If one Abu Qaqa dies, it can generate 10 Abu Qaqas.
“The issue is not the death of one person,” Jonathan said. “The issue is that the robust approach that government is taking, exploiting all possible means … is paying off, and we believe it will continue to pay off.”
Nigeria’s military has been accused of using heavy-handed tactics in the past and previous operations targeting Boko Haram have resulted in civilian deaths. But Jonathan made clear that the military approach could only be one part of the solution.
Much more important, he said, was a push to improve agriculture, job prospects and access to Western-style education in the predominantly Muslim north.
“The whole approach, both the security aspects, both the indirect talks, and the job opportunities that we are creating. We are giving hope to the people. The education institutions we are establishing are giving hope to the people,” Jonathan said.