- Title: NIGERIA: Nigerian army losing grip on northeast where Islamists rampage
- Date: 31st March 2014
- Summary: KANO, NIGERIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF AREA SHOTS OF KANO SHOWING BUILDINGS AND TRAFFIC VARIOUS OF STREETS IN KANO/PEOPLE WALKING VARIOUS OF TRADER MERCY GBENGA ARRANGING HER SHOP (SOUNDBITE) (English) MERCY GBENGA, TRADER, SAYING: "We do go to church but sometimes we fear. Even when we are in church some people pray, formerly we pray in the church and close our eyes but now we cannot be able to close our eyes because you don't know when you close your eyes what would happen next so sha we are praying for God's intervention in Nigeria." ADAMAWA, NIGERIA (FILE) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF A BURNT POLICE STATION SIGN READING: "POLICE HEADQUARTERS MICHIKA" VARIOUS OF BURNT POLICE STATION SHOWING BULLET HOLES
- Embargoed: 15th April 2014 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: War / Fighting,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA3GRSPN7GFIAC4LQFOHE2EZUFU
- Story Text: At a media briefing by security officials in Abuja, Nigeria, national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki outlines plans for a new "softer" approach on terrorism.
The new counter terrorism strategy hopes to prevent attacks before they happen by eliminating poverty, joblessness, prolonged unresolved conflict and social injustice - issues that are believed to have drawn people into extremist groups.
"Based on our understanding of the economic root causes of terrorism and global best practices in addressing them, we are working with the governors of the six Northeastern states of Nigeria to design an economic revitalization program targeted toward the states most impacted by terrorism. Working with various stakeholders, we are currently designing a regional economic revitalization plan," said Dasuki.
Nigeria's military is losing control of swathes of the largely Muslim northeast to radical Islamist insurgents who are killing civilians almost daily, and the run-up to elections next year risks aggravating the violence further.
Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed thousands since it launched an uprising in 2009 in a bid to carve out an Islamic state in the West African country of 170 million people, divided roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.
In the north's main city of Kano, attacks by Boko Haram have cooled off in recent weeks but residents still live in fear.
Mercy Gbenga, a soft drinks trader, says it is difficult to act like everything is normal because she knows the situation is still volatile.
"We do go to church but sometimes we fear. Even when we are in church some people pray, formerly we pray in the church and close our eyes but now we cannot be able to close our eyes because you don't know when you close your eyes what would happen next so we are praying for God's intervention in Nigeria," the 32 year old said.
Boko Haram is increasingly targeting the civilian population and caused international outrage when dozens of school children were slaughtered in an attack last month. Young girls are regularly kidnapped by insurgents.
More than 150 civilians have died in Boko Haram attacks this month, adding to the 300 killed in February, according to Reuters figures and security sources, one of the worst periods in the northeast since the sect intensified its insurgency three years ago.
A security source, who asked not to be named, said 2,100 people were killed in Boko Haram violence in the last six months.
Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer and second largest economy; is a year away from a presidential election and already the two main political parties are trading blame over the escalating Boko Haram conflict.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who is expected to run for re-election in next February's vote, declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states last May and launched a military surge into the zone. It has failed to stem the bloodshed.
Political analyst and lawyer, Ebunoluwa Adegboruwa says since president Jonathan declared a state of emergency, attacks in north-eastern Nigeria has actually worsened.
"It was after this state of emergency that we saw school pupils that were slaughtered in their sleep. It was after this state of emergency that a whole barrack was besieged and attacked and almost taken over by these insurgents. They drive in convoys, they don't move in one car, so their activities are in the open and it is clear that the military cannot contain them because if the entirety of the Nigerian army, Nigerian airforce, Nigerian navy, Nigerian police cannot contain a small insurgence such as Boko Haram, it shows the inefficacy of our military system," said Adegboruwa.
With the largest standing army in sub-Saharan Africa and 20 percent of the federal budget allocated to security, around 6 billion US dollars, many Nigerians question whether the army is being properly managed in a country rife with corruption.
Elections are often violent periods in Nigeria and politicians have in the past paid armed groups to destabilise regions, which could allow Boko Haram the opportunity to extend its insurgency towards the nation's centre.
"The government has not taken enough steps to contain the spread of this violence as the election is coming. The northern people feel whether rightly or wrongly that they are entitled to power, the South-South feel that it is their turn to return president Jonathan even though he has not declared officially. So beyond the violence that we see in Boko Haram, there is also a religious aspect of it. There are politicians that are sponsoring them for their own personal aggrandizement or ventilation of grievances against the government so as 2015 is approaching, we expect that the scale of violence will escalate," Adegboruwa added.
In the past, some southern politicians have accused northern political power brokers of stoking the Boko Haram revolt to undermine Jonathan because they oppose his standing for next year's polls.
Since independence, Nigeria's delicate internal political and ethnic balance has been maintained by rotating the presidency between northerners and southerners.
"There must be active and deliberate steps that are taken by government to be able to contain these sponsors, to be able to seek foreign assistance either from Israel, either from the United States, in gathering intelligence, not just in wiping them out. It is clear that you can't wipe them out, the battle has been on for how many years and it's escalating," said Adegboruwa.
Many analysts believe the longer-term threat of instability is underestimated because it appears far removed from central Nigeria, where the capital Abuja is located, and from the commercial hub of Lagos and oil-producing areas in the south.
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