At least 33 Boko Haram militants were killed by Nigerian troops in a gunfight on Sunday, according to military sources on Tuesday.

A Deputy Director and researcher at the National Defence College (NDC), Abuja, Dr Yusuf Mamud, has given reasons why government must engage families and religious leaders if it is serious about ending violent extremism by Boko Haram in the North East.

Mamud, in a press conference at the weekend ahead of the formal launch of his books – ‘In God’s Name We Fight: Embracing and Renouncing Violent Extremism’ and ‘Turning Forty’ – which narrate the struggles and triumphs of the average Nigeria youth, explained that using the family and religious leaders, without forgoing military offensive and counterattacks, is a softer approach to preventing and countering extremism and terrorism.

In the book, ‘In God’s Name We Fight: Embracing and Renouncing Violent Extremism’, Mamud, who has been a researcher at the NDC for about 20 years, said his lengthy studies and experience prove that the family unit is key to tackling the ignorance which fuels extremism.

According to him: “We must start from the family unit in a bid to stem the tide of violent extremism. This can produce evidence based response. The family is key to tackling violent extremism. Family must be at the heart of the solution.

“The hard military power approach is relevant, but afterwards we need to identify individual family groups and religious groups to ask pertinent questions. We should ask them for solutions not giving them our own, which may not be the best.”

The author also advised that public preaching by clerics needs to be regulated and closely monitored by government and security agencies, adding that a rejig of the curriculum of the military institutions and training to factor in family intervention and other relevant social indices is also key to ending the scourge of extremism in the country.

Mamud, who expressed concern about a lack of parental monitoring which has resulted in young boys in the North, where violent extremism is prevalent, being susceptible to brainwashing and being lured into crime, canvassed that certain conditions be attached to government’s social investment programmes – like restricting the number of children for beneficiaries.

Mamud also expressed concern over what he called the “not so transparent roles” of foreign donors and agencies, calling for government to put in place effective monitoring mechanism to stall untoward activities.

“We should be telling them what we want them to do for our people. There shouldn’t be to much free hand for them to do whatever they want in our country,” he advised, noting that the grey areas results in the occasional friction between the agencies and security agencies.

Explaining his book, Mamud said he weaved his thoughts around a true-life story of a young undergraduate in a medical college who ended up as a Boko Haram fighter while searching to worship God on campus.

He pointed out that the efforts to get the young man off that destructive trajectory were huge but made easier and eventually successful when his family applied love, empathy and compassion to de-radicalise him.

He said he followed up the story personally and conclusively till the young Boko Haram fighter was liberated and graduated as a neurosurgeon in a foreign university, with the intention to help less privileged Nigerians back home.

He said his second book, ‘Turning Forty’, revolves around the struggles, disappointments and victories of the average young person as he or she approaches and turns 40-years-old in Nigeria.

He highlighted the joblessness that follow the high hopes in many instances as well as the parental and societal pressures that trail the average Nigerian youth, even after going through higher education, which is touted as the key to a bright future.

“Part of my own success is putting this dilemma and experience in writing and presenting it to the public. This book will encourage the youths to struggle more as there is light at of the tunnel,” he said.

“We should formalise vocational skills, too; like having better formal training of mechanics and carpenters and other blue collar artisans. While we may not always have to blame the government, it is clear that we need better curriculums in our educational institutions.”

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