Arun Sudhaman 21 May 2014 // 12:13PM GMT
ABUJA—The Nigerian government is seeking public relations counsel amid increasing pressure over its response to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls.
The Holmes Report understands that government representatives, led by the country's Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke, have met approximately five PR firms in London regarding the assignment, as it attempts to counter mounting criticism both inside and outside the country.
The development follows the mass abduction of schoolgirls by the Boko Haram militant group more than a month ago in Chibok. Activists from the #BringBackOurGirls group have ramped up pressure on the government, amid international uproar over the girls' disappearance.
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. As Ken Wiwa, senior special assistant to the president, admitted earlier this week: "Rather than being about Boko Haram and their atrocities, this is turning into a referendum on [President] Jonathan's administration."
Sources familiar with the situation told the Holmes Report that any relevant PR counsel would be limited to improving the transparency of the government's communications in light of intense global media scrutiny.
One source noted that the government would benefit from a "clearer, more transparent media operation." "What we shouldn’t be doing is promising to clear up the story."
A spokeperson at Nigeria's Ministry for Petroleum Resources declined to comment. According to an online biography, Alison-Madueke was previously external affairs director at Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria. She was appointed Minister of Petroleum Resources in 2010.
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.