Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is calling for civilian “foot soldiers” in the fight against Boko Haram, appealing to traditional hierarchies and centuries-old methods to weed out Islamist plotters.
Eyes and ears on the ground were vital, he said, as concern mounts over suicide and bomb attacks in the northeast, particularly in mosques.
“The ward head, the village head and the local police knew every new entrant into the community,” Buhari said late last month.
“They kept tabs on them and detected traits of criminality before evil-doers got the chance to act against (the) common interest. We must go back to those rudimentary acts of local policing…
“In this new phase of war, all of us are generals, all of us are foot soldiers, and all of us are intelligence officers.”
Buhari has ordered his military commanders to end the violence by the end of the year, after at least 17,000 deaths and more than 2.5 million made homeless in six years of conflict.
Human intelligence is crucial to any counter-insurgency. But claims of military abuses against civilians in Nigeria, have eroded co-operation and trust.