The United Nations has resumed humanitarian services in the Northeast after its one- day suspension of operations in the region. The hiatus followed what the UN described as a breach of its diplomatic immunity by the Nigerian Army, which cordoned off its Pompomari, Maiduguri office on August 11 in search of insurgents. The incident led to the immediate convening of a security council meeting by Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima. In attendance were the UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Lundberg, the Borno State Deputy Governor, the state Attorney-General, the Army and other security agencies. Subsequently, Governor Shettima and Mr. Lundberg addressed a joint press conference yesterday to announce the resumption of the UN humanitarian activities in the insurgency- battered region.
Governor Shettima said that “the Borno State government has been exceptionally collaborative in enabling intervention by UN agencies, development partners from supportive countries and nongovernmental organizations” and acknowledged the invaluable contributions of the partners to “the immense task of helping our displaced brothers and sisters and in trying to end the Boko Haram crisis.” He described the diplomatic as “a regrettable 24- hour setback to our well- established relationship with the UN” but added that the state government had been quick to take steps to rebuild its partnership with the United Nations. “We discussed all the issues and reaffirmed our joint agreement and commitment concerning the sincere role of the UN, the sanctity of their premises and workers in line with international best practices. The Governor also said that he had called the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs. Amina Mohammed and reassured her of the government’s commitment to safeguarding humanitarian workers with the UN and all partners.
In his address, Mr. Lundberg said that Friday’s “tumultuous events” had “generated significant media coverage” and that the security conclave had been extremely helpful in providing some clarity as there had been a great deal of confusion and misinformation. “I am very pleased to report that our relationship of collaboration and trust is intact, and at this stage, we are focused on the work ahead to ensure that the millions of vulnerable people in the Northeast are supported with lifesaving humanitarian aid.”
For its own part, the Nigerian Army has reaffirmed its commitment to collaborate with the UN as well as other humanitarian and development agencies to address the humanitarian crisis in the North-East region. The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru made this known in Maiduguri on August 12.
He explained that the army’s incursion into a UN facility had not specifically targeted the organization or meant to tarnish the its image. The raid had been conducted in a general area of operation spanning thirty houses during which the building which bore no UN designation was searched. It was only subsequently discovered that the property housed some UN staffers.
“We are working on the front lines with the UN; it is complimenting the effort of the government by providing succour to the displaced victims,” the Theatre Commander said. “Such working collaboration is imperative to ensure success of the counter-insurgency campaign in the country.” Describing the army and the UN as “partners in progress”, Maj. Gen. Attahiru stressed that the army is aware that UN agencies have to discharge their duties and that “the army will continue to work toward providing enabling and conducive environment to UN agencies to enhance their operations.”