Nigeria is studying the military tactics used by Sri Lanka to crush the rebel Tamil Tigers for its own battle against Islamist group Boko Haram, the defence ministry said, after holding talks with officials from the island nation.
Abuja has been criticised for its failure to contain the militant group, which has killed thousands since 2009 and has stepped up its devastating attacks after abducting more than 200 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria.
Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria, has exposed severe weaknesses in Abuja’s security forces and heaped political pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan, who has declared a “full-scale operation” against the group.
High-ranking members of Nigeria’s military met with a Sri Lankan delegation to discuss counter-insurgency tactics, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement late on Thursday.
The chief of Nigeria’s defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, said it was “seriously considering” methods employed by Sri Lanka including “total security”, or focusing all of the country’s resources on the military.
Sri Lanka’s tactics however were much criticised internationally for the loss of civilian lives. The United Nations in March launched an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by both sides.
Colombo fought for nearly 30 years against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, who wanted to create a separate state for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.
It crushed the LTTE and killed its entire leadership on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in 2009, amid Western calls for a ceasefire to protect civilians held as shields by the Tigers.
Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of the civil war.
Nigeria’s armed services have been hamstrung by a lack of investment in military training, failure to maintain equipment and dwindling cooperation with Western forces.
“As far as the government’s response is concerned, it really exposes the severe limitations of the military,” Martin Roberts, a senior Africa analyst at research firm IHS told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
“We’ve also seen reports of various mutinies taking place … illustrating the disconnect between the rank-and-file and the leadership.”
African and Western officials this week pledged at a meeting in London to give Nigeria more military and tactical support to help combat Boko Haram and find the kidnapped schoolgirls.