As part of its continued assistance to Nigeria in the war against terrorism, the United States has concluded plans to launch a 24-hour satellite television in the troubled Northern part of Nigeria to counter the spread of terrorism activities of Boko Haram in the region.
The television project, which is to be financed by the US States Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, according to the New York Times, will cost about $6 million and will be used to sensitise the people of the North on the criminal activities of the Boko Haram sect and also redirect the orientation of the teeming youth.
The television channel, to be called Arewa24, according to US officials who spoke to New York Times, is being established with full collaboration of the Nigerian government.
The project, the newspaper disclosed, was started last year and is run in Nigeria by Equal Access International, a San Francisco-based government contractor that has managed media programmes sponsored by the state department in Yemen and Pakistan, which encourage youth participation in politics, in addition to countering Islamist extremism.
“Work on the project is nearing completion, but broadcasts have not yet begun,” it was reported.
America believes the television channel is crucial to countering the extremism of radical groups such as Boko Haram and the move is seen as an indication that the US government wants to increase its counterinsurgency efforts to directly challenge the Boko Haram terrorist group which has been globally disclaimed for its kidnappings and mindless killing of innocent people.
The goal of the satellite television channel is to provide original content, including comedies and children’s programmes that will be created, developed and produced by Nigerians.
State Department officials said they hoped to provide an alternative to the violent propaganda and recruitment efforts of Boko Haram.
A US government official who spoke on the project said the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls was a game-changer, saying “it demonstrates the need for a strong and durable alternative narrative to the destructive narrative of Boko Haram and other violent extremists”.
Although foreign policy experts have been applauding the state department’s programmes to counter the deadly onslaught of Boko Haram and other extremist groups, they outlined challenges the new satellite project would face in a region with low levels of infrastructure, public services, literacy and security, especially where only few people own or have access to televisions.
They pinpointed Nigeria’s electricity challenge and the security situation as some of the obstacles to be surmounted.