MAIDUGURI (AFP) – A senior Nigerian security source told AFP on Friday that the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram has exposed the country’s incapacity to deal with the Islamist uprising.
“We have been playing the ostrich all this while, pretending we are on top of the situation,” said the source based in Maiduguri, who agreed to an interview provided his name and title be withheld.
“The Chibok kidnap has exposed our nakedness. It has exposed how porous we are. It has clearly shown that we don’t have the wherewithal to deal with this insurgency that has raged on for five years now,” he told AFP.
Gunmen seized 276 girls on April 14 from their school in Chibok in northeastern Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.
Some escaped within hours of the attack but 223 remain in captivity and major world powers, including the United States, are providing support to the Nigeria-led rescue mission.
The source said Nigeria needed outside help beyond the Chibok mission as the security forces in Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy were incapable of defeating Boko Haram.
“We have no option but to eat the humble pie and accept whatever foreign assistance we can get to end this violence,” he added.
“Our priority will have to be getting the girls safely out of the hands of Boko Haram and then go after them with the foreign assistance at our disposal.”
The security officer was highly critical of the military’s heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the extremist Islamist uprising, which has killed thousands since 2009.
Analysts and leading human rights organisations say the military’s crackdown in Boko Haram’s northeastern stronghold, including widespread reports of atrocities against civilians, has alienated the local population and complicated the fight against Boko Haram.
“The ineffective bashing has not ended the insurgency. It has in some ways escalated it. That is why we are talking of the soft approach,” he said.
National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki in March announced a new “soft power” approach, aiming to resolve the root causes of the conflict, including extreme poverty in the northeast.
But it is not yet clear if the plan will be implemented or fully funded.