According to the UN, Nigeria can finally solve the Boko Haram problem when it begins developing rural communities.
Nigeria has been battling a decade old insurgency no thanks to terrorist sect Boko Haram.
The crisis has led to the deaths of over 30,000 people, abduction of hundreds and the displacement of millions; amid sporadic attacks on soft targets.
Boko Haram has taken advantage of poverty and other poor development indices in the nation's north, to recruit starry-eyed kids who are then transformed into foot soldiers, sex slaves and suicide bombers.
Head of the UNDP, Achim Steiner, who is visiting Oslo, Norway, for a May 23-24 conference on preventing violent extremism, told Reuters that there was no purely military way to defeat groups such as Islamic State (IS), Boko Haram or Al Qaeda.
“A traditional development economist might a few years ago have looked at how to invest a million dollars in supporting small and medium-scale enterprise (in) the capital city, maybe one or two other cities in the country,” Steiner said.
“Today if we want to deal with the phenomenon of exclusion, of potential radicalization, we will look at who will have the greatest added benefit,” he added.
That could mean investments in remote rural areas prone to cross-border incursions by militants, “that traditionally would not have been at the forefront of development spending”.
“Even now with a peacekeeping force in Mali, there are parts of the country that are essentially not stable and secure ... even a country like Nigeria has struggled to contain Boko Haram,” Steiner added.
Steiner adds that investment for people in rural areas “may be education, it may be access to health services, it may be access to microfinance so that they can invest in their own businesses,” can significantly impact on the recruitment capability of extremist groups like Boko Haram.
The success of such investments were harder to gauge than a cost-benefit analysis of a business set up in a city, he explained.
But it might have hidden long-term benefits, for instance averting a need to deploy an international military force that could easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year, Steiner added.
Military officials in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with over 180 million people, have repeatedly claimed to have defeated Boko Haram.
Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, declared in April that there was "no doubt Boko Haram terrorists have been defeated, they don't have the capacity".
But persistent attacks against soldiers and civilians, including a brazen kidnapping of over 100 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Dapchi on February 19, 2018, suggest otherwise.
The emergence of an IS-allied faction of Boko Haram, whose strategy is to provide an alternative government for people living in the impoverished region, poses a new threat for Nigeria.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sean McClure who is the US defence attache in Abuja, has advised Nigeria’s military to evolve new strategies to deal with the Boko Haram insurgency because Boko Haram's evolution in tactics - from improvised explosive devices to hiding within the local population-- necessitate a shift away from conventional strategies.
"We haven't necessarily seen that kind of adaptation cycle," McClure told the AFP in April. "They're trying to figure out how to do this.
"How they think in terms of combat, in my opinion, is still thinking of things as conventional warfare."
"It starts to become a very wicked problem," McClure added.
Boko Haram seeks a hardline Islamic State in northeast Nigeria and regards Borno State—the epicenter of the crisis—as its spiritual capital.