Abuja: A senior United Nations official on Friday called for a regional response to tackle Boko Haram, as the six-year conflict increasingly threatened Nigeria`s neighbours.
"We have seen that Boko Haram are moving in neighbouring countries," Leila Zerrougui, the UN secretary-general`s special representative on children and armed conflict, said.
"This needs a regional response," she said in Abuja after visiting conflict-hit areas of Nigeria`s northeast.
In the interview, Zerrougui placed the conflict in the context of concern about the spillover from unrest in Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic into neighbouring countries.
A situation where Islamist rebels across the region and beyond could join forces risked making it "more complicated for all us to address", she added.
"So it`s absolutely important that the international community, neighbouring countries, the government of Nigeria take action to ensure this stops," she said.
Zerrougui visited camps for internally displaced people in Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, to see for herself how the six-year insurgency had devastated families and properties.
"The scale of suffering is way beyond what I anticipated to find. The people I met demand and deserve urgent protection," she added in a separate statement.
Zerrougui argued in the interview that the solution to the Boko Haram conflict had to come from Nigeria in the first instance -- and that it has the capacity to do so.
But she declined to say whether there should be international assistance.
"It`s not for me to decide. If Nigeria considers that they can cope with it, they will cope with it. If they need support from their partners, they will ask for that," she added.
"All that I know is that this is a serious threat. We have to come together to provide the support to the Nigerian government that has the primary responsibility to protect its people," she added.