Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, said on Sunday that Nigeria’s government is still engaging the nation’s radical Islamist sect Boko Haram in talks via “back room channels”.
On Thursday, the sect had released a statement denying any dialogue with the Federal Government. It had described the claims as false and a ploy to “confuse and change the perception people in this region have about this holy war of Jihad we are fighting”.
However, Abati told journalists at the Presidential villa on Sunday that the dialogue was going on with some members of the sect. He said the government is eager “to reach across with the objective of understanding what exactly the grievances of these persons are, what exactly can be done to resolve the crises”.
Boko Haram’s increasingly violent insurgency in Nigeria’s north and central areas have claimed over 1,500 lives since 2009, but experts warn against a solely military reaction to the rise of insurgency.
U.S. diplomats urged the Nigerian government to address grievances of populations in the north, including mass unemployment and poverty, as well as securing its porous borders.
“The available options are not solely military action and it is on the basis of this that he had reached out to leaders in the parts of the country that are affected,” Abati said.
He also added that “social programs to transform lives, to create wealth, to … create jobs and to engage young people more effectively,” would aim to starve the sect of recruits, Reuters reported.
Despite reassurances of ongoing peace talks by the Federal Government, the sect insists that the public should place no confidence in them. They stand by the Boko Haram spiritual leader Imam Abubakar Shekau, who insists that dialogue with the government is out of the question.
In its last written statement, the group threatened that Nigeria would know no peace until it adopts Sharia law and turns away from the infidel-produced constitution, demands that the government has dismissed out of hand.