ABUJA (Reuters) - A seven-man committee appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan to review almost daily attacks by a radical Islamist sect in Nigeria’s northeast has been granted a two-week extension to complete its report.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful”, has claimed responsibility for months of attacks in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, close to borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
More than 250 people have been killed since July 2010 by attacks blamed on Boko Haram, rights groups say.
The head of the committee, Usman Gaji Galtimari, said it had produced a preliminary report which included urgent recommendations for the government but no details of its findings would be publicly released until the final paper was given to Jonathan in two weeks. The original deadline was August 16.
“We have been able to go round all the states within the northeast and we have been to Kano and Kaduna,” Galtimari told reporters after handing the preliminary findings to Nigeria’s secretary to the government of the federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, who inaugurated the committee on August 2.
“We have had meetings here with stakeholders, agencies, governors, and we have collected a lot of information to assist us in making recommendations to the federal government,” Galtimari said.
Anyim said before the team’s inauguration that one of the committee’s key goals was talks with members of Boko Haram but within days Galtimari backtracked, saying it was not possible to make contact.
The committee was set up after a meeting between Jonathan and local Borno leaders, who have said the military has done more harm than good in reacting to attacks in the region.
Amnesty International has said brutalisation by security forces, unlawful arrests, killings and disappearances have been the operating practice in Maiduguri for months.
Thousands have fled the city in recent weeks after clashes between security forces and Boko Haram intensified.
Bomb blasts in the north have replaced militant attacks on oil facilities hundreds of miles away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security threat in Nigeria.
Boko Haram strikes have spread farther afield in recent months, including a bomb in the car park of national police headquarters in the capital Abuja in June.
The group’s views, which include wanting sharia law more widely applied across Nigeria, are not backed by most of the country’s Muslim population, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.