Boko Haram has taken over at least five municipalities in northeast Nigeria’s Adamawa state, its governor said on Friday, calling for more troops to halt further Islamist gains.
“I can talk of my entire (home) district… Five local governments have been overrun,” Governor Bala Ngilari told journalists on a visit to the capital, Abuja.
“We need a lot of intervention. We need to move more troops to secure the state,” he said. “It is a big challenge.”
Nigeria imposed a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa in May last year but many believed that Adamawa was included as a precaution.
Violence in Adamawa had been relatively contained compared with Borno and Yobe further north.
But Boko Haram has since captured significant parts of the state, underscoring the severity of the crisis facing Nigeria, with the militants apparently advancing with little resistance south of their Borno stronghold.
Residents in Mubi, part of the governor’s home district, told AFP on Thursday that the extremists had changed the town’s name to Madinatul Islam, or “City of Islam” in Arabic.
While calling for more troops urgently, Ngilari also restated the need for a “soft power” strategy to end the fight beyond the use of force, including reaching out to Boko Haram foot soldiers.
“They live with us. They are not from planet Mars. They are part and parcel of society,” he said, identifying high unemployment in the impoverished northeast as a key factor in radicalisation.
Boko Haram, which wants to create a hardline Islamic state in Nigeria’s northeast, is now thought to control at least two dozen towns in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa.
The governor’s call for more troops seemed to contrast with federal government claims of a possible ceasefire.
Many were sceptical of the government’s October 17 announcement of a truce with the Islamists and the violence has continued at a relentless pace.
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