Arun Sudhaman 27 Jun 2014 // 10:36AM GMT
ABUJA—The Nigerian Government has hired DC PR firm Levick as it attempts to counter criticism of its response to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls.
The Hill has reported that the $1.2m contract calls for Levick to "change the the international and local media narrative surrounding Nigeria’s efforts to find and safely return the girls abducted by the terrorist organization Boko Haram."
The assignment comes after the Holmes Report revealed that Nigerian ministers had met with approximately five PR firms in London in May. However, it is understood that Levick's hire was a separate process led by the Nigeria News Agency, at the direction of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Levick president Mark Irion told the Holmes Report that several firms were sounded out before his agency's selection. The firm is reporting to Nigeria News Agency head Ima Niboro.
The development follows the mass abduction of schoolgirls in April by the Boko Haram militant group in Chibok. Activists from the #BringBackOurGirls group have ramped up pressure on the government, amid international uproar over the girls' disappearance.
Levick's work will be part of a global effort to "mobilize international support in fighting Boko Haram as part of the greater war on terror.”
"This assignment is to communicate on behalf of Nigeria to galvanise support in the US but ultimately internationally, for fighting the scourge of Boko Haram," said Irion. "And, in so doing, getting back the girls and any other children that have been harmed through the years by Boko Haram."
The firm is partnering with human rights attorney Jared Genser on the assignment. Genser is expected to support efforts to foster real change and advance human rights in Nigeria.
"We want to produce outcomes — our goal is to ensure there are resources provided to Nigeria to galvanise support against Boko Haram," said Irion. "The fact that part of the Levick team also includes a world-renowned human rights attorney is also evidence of the sincerity of the effort."
It is thought that Africa's top oil producer is concerned that domestic unrest sparked by the kidnappings may prove politically costly with elections looming.
Boko Haram's reign of terror in northeast Nigeria has included countless civilian atrocities since 2009, as part of the group's attempt to establish a medieaval Islamic caliphate.
Nigeria's next election takes place in early 2015. Opposition party APC hired political consultancy AKPD — best known for its work with Barack Obama — earlier this year to support its campaign.