UN office raid: Humanitarian assistance resumes
*Army woos global organisation, says it’s ‘one of our strongest, worthy allies’
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) yesterday resumed assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Borno State, 24 hours after an army raid on its Maiduguri compound.
The organisation had suspended its activities to protest the raid which the army said was in search of high profile elements of the terror sect, Boko Haram, which informants claimed had infiltrated the part of the city where the building is located.
UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon called the raid unauthorised and expressed “grave concern over the unauthorised search” of the UN base for humanitarian workers.
But the army said it was not aware that the building housed UN personnel, and described the global organisation as one of its strongest and worthy allies in the fight against Boko Haram.
Governor Kashim Shettima, in a swift response to the suspension of activities by UNOCHA, convened an emergency security council meeting on Friday to review the development.
In attendance were the General Officer Commanding the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, the State Commissioner of Police, the State Director of DSS and the United Nations Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Peter Lundberg.
Shettima also put a call through to UN’s Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, to reassure the organisation of government’s commitment to safeguarding the lives of the humanitarian workers and ensuring respect for international protocol.
At the security council meeting the governor pledged government’s continued diplomatic protection for the UN personnel.
Participants resolved to take measures to forestall a repeat of the raid.
At the end of the meeting, all those in attendance, including Shettima, proceeded to the UN property as a sign of good faith and to rebuild public confidence in humanitarian workers.
Speaking to reporters separately, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru described the United Nations as one of its strongest and worthy allies in the counter insurgency fight against Boko Haram.
He said the army was always ready to work with all UN agencies in the Northeast with a view to ending the current crisis.
Major General Attahiru said the UN building was not singled out for search and that the army was not even aware that it was being used by a UN agency.
He said:”The Nigerian Army is very aware of the need of the UN agencies to discharge their duties and we are ready to support them.
“The army will continue to work toward providing enabling and conducive environment to UN agencies to enhance their operations.
“We are working in the front line with the UN; it is complimenting the effort of the government by providing succour to the displaced victims.
“Such working collaboration is imperative to ensure success of the counter-insurgency campaign in the country.”
He explained further that the action was based on intelligence report made available to the military and not a deliberate plan to drag the image of the UN to the mud.
He said the military has recorded significant successes in its various operations in the theatre in over the last two weeks.
Dozens of Boko Haram insurgents, according to him, were neutralised and arrests made.
He added: “The development assisted to reduce spate of suicide bombing and insurgents’ attacks. It should not be misconstrued that the Nigerian Army is trying to stop the UN from discharging its activities. We are partners in progress in the counter insurgency operations.”