- (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)
Nigeria has announced plans to diversify its efforts to combat terrorist group Boko Haram following continuous waves of violence and attacks by the Islamist sect over recent weeks. One official has called on local groups to be vigilant against the violent group, and has urged calm, saying the issue was not one between "Muslims and Christians," but that the sect simply wants to "kill people."
In Benue, Governor Gabriel Suswam has increased security around religious centers in the wake of threats by the terror group. Suswam also told members of the National Union of Local Government Employees, "Let me implore all of you to always be on alert and report any suspicious movement of strange people within your locality to security agents."
He added, "We learnt as a rumor that Benue State is on the hit list of the dreaded Boko Haram and as a person I don't count the information as a rumor… The issue of Boko Haram has become a strong one that needs to be given serious attention. If you study their activities, you discover that they come like spirits; they kill and maim people. This is not a matter of Muslim or Christian, not even pagan-their target is to kill people."
President Goodluck Jonathan has issued a challenge to the group terrorizing his country. In a speech recently, he stated: "If they clearly identify themselves now and say 'this is the reason we're resisting,' 'this is the reason we are confronting government' or 'this is the reason we destroy some innocent people and their properties'… then there will be a basis for dialogue."
Jonathan added, "We will dialogue. Let us know your problems, and we will solve your problems. If they don't identify themselves, whom will you dialogue with?"
Boko Haram has yet to respond to Jonathan's offer, but they have previously ignored or refused to participate in dialogue.
Some commentators have suggested that members of the group may be afraid to reveal themselves out of fear of reprisal due to the mass amounts of bloodshed the group has brought about in recent weeks. Others may feel themselves lost within the group mentality, which pledges loyalty only to Allah and refuses to fall in line with any "man-made government."
Leaders have emerged and represented the group at various times, but Boko Haram prefers to attack quickly and as one group, not as individuals, experts have suggested.
National Security Advisor General Owoye Adnrew Azazi echoed the sentiments of General Suswam, who called the group "spirits."
Azazi told Reuters, "For now, Boko Haram is an invisible enemy. You don't have an identifiable person you can talk to."