Kayode Fasua reviews global efforts being championed by the United Nations to save the north-east victims of Boko Haram insurgency in the outgoing year, as well as ways aimed at restoring peace
For world’s apex humanist body, the United Nations Organisation (UNO), a whooping sum $1.05 billion will be needed to alleviate the suffering of 6.1 million victims of the protracted Boko Haram insurgency in North-East Nigeria.
Despite the grim situation, the people in dire need of life-saving aid in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states-who have either been maimed, marooned, rendered homeless or useless by insurgents, may not be hopeless after all.
The UN said there was still a glimmer of hope for the benighted residents of these states, noting that as of October 31, this year, $607 million (58 percent) of the funds had been received, according to its Financial Tracking Service (FTS).
The UN, whose aid workers also recently fell victim to debilitating attacks from the insurgents, has, in its latest humanitarian report plan, made a passionate appeal to its partners worldwide, which include governments and agencies, to help make up the huge sum for the purpose of 176 projects, to be implemented by 60 humanitarian organisations in these war-torn North-East communities in Nigeria
At the approach of the dawn of a new year, however, the humanitarian community mourned the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the insurgents in Nigeria, even as it counted its recent losses in Saifura Hussaini, Ahmed Khorsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman, three midwives with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The aid workers were abducted from Rann town, Borno State, on March 1, this year, following a deadly attack by a band of insurgents in which three aid workers were killed. The two aid workers were eventually executed in September and October 2018, respectively.
This attack on the humanitarian community, the UN demurred, violates principled humanitarian response, noting that it would hamper much needed assistance to vulnerable populations in need.
“The increase in insecurity and hostilities reported during this period, especially in northern Borno State, has had serious implications on humanitarian operations and the civilian population.
“Some humanitarian partners have temporarily suspended operations while others have significantly decreased programming in Damasak town, as well as in areas north of Monguno and other parts of northern Borno State. This has left thousands of people without adequate access to humanitarian assistance and medical care.
“The United Nations urges parties to the conflict to enable the work of humanitarian workers, facilitate their access to people in need and afford them protection in line with International Humanitarian Law,” an impassioned world body appealed.
It, however, in concert with the humanitarian community, was engaging, on a regular basis, with the Nigerian Armed Forces to de-conflict movements towards ensuring that life-saving humanitarian aid could reach the agonising locals, in a safe manner.
“Civil-military coordination trainings in the field are underway with military officers and humanitarian partners having received training on humanitarian principles and civil-military coordination in a complex emergency environment. The trainings introduce humanitarians and the military to the North-East Nigeria-Specific Guidance, and establish a framework for addressing humanitarian concerns,” the UN further observed.
In October this year, over 800 children were reportedly reunited with their parents and caregivers. The kwashiorkor-wracked children were returned by the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) and are reportedly getting the needed support.
Additionally, nine girls and 19 boys formerly associated with armed groups were also handed over by the military to the transit centre managed by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in Borno State, it was gathered. They are also receiving basic education, medical and psychosocial support services.
A Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis of the UN has further indicated that between October and December, this year, 1.7 million people were estimated to be food insecure, and this number is predicted to rise to 2.7 million people soon, save for urgent intervention.
“Additionally, recent proxy analysis suggests high levels of deprivation in hard-to-reach areas, where an estimated 823,000 people remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors.
“Nutrition screenings in reception centres for new arrivals reveal that the nutrition situation of children coming from hard-to-reach areas is significantly worse than that of children in areas receiving assistance. Discussions on ways forward for possible operational modalities for a response in hard-to-reach areas are underway,” the UN assured.
But despite the concerted efforts by the military and the UN to bring peace to these war-torn parts of Nigeria, a recent shock attack on the Nigerian troop at Metele, Borno State, is widely believed to be worrisome.
A media report had indicated that 113 soldiers were killed in the pre-dusk attack on 157 Task Force Battalion in Borno State, on November 18.
Quoting accounts of top military officers, the report stated that 153 soldiers were missing in action, a week after the attack. But the military authorities, which though admitted the attacks, said it was not as bad as being portrayed, as its officers and men also repelled the attacking insurgents.
Those reportedly killed included the commander of the battalion, the second-in-command to the commander, the intelligence officer of the battalion and two other officers, besides the soldiers, said to count in dozens.
Sharibu and the Ransom Debate
Meanwhile, the plight of Leah Sharibu, the only remaining captive of the Dapchi schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, remains unresolved.
But the Campaign for Democracy (CD) warned the federal government against paying any ransom to secure the release of the only remaining student of Girls Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, that is still being held by the Boko Haram insurgents.
This is even as a newly inaugurated body for student theologians in Nigeria recently pleaded with the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom, to team up with the Federal Government, and free Leah from captivity.
The CD Secretary General, Pastor Ifeanyi Odili, in an interview with THISDAY, said the body had to caution the federal government against the ransom-payment option, following a recent report that the insurgents were demanding a N100bn ransom.
According to him, it is not politically expedient for the government to pay ransom before the girl is released, as this would create a wrong impression before the international community that Nigeria is a trade partner with terrorists.
“It is not politically expedient for the Federal Government to pay ransom. And by the way, who are they paying the ransom to? Who is collecting the money when the Federal Government has already professed that the Boko Haram people are faceless characters? So if they now choose to pay ransom, are they paying to ghosts?”
Odili added, “Besides, this will send a wrong signal to the international community that Nigeria is now a trade partner with terrorist groups and as such, can no longer be trusted in the global fight against terrorism.
“When Osama bn Laden and his Al Qaeda group were terrorising the world, why didn’t the United States government pay ransom to them, even for the people they kidnapped? Same for other terrorist groups.
“Indeed, paying ransom is an indictment on our military; that they are weak and incapable of facing the terrorists in battle, and of course, a damnation of the intelligence-gathering ability of our other security outfits.”
On humanitarian consideration that the ransom option should be explored to make the hapless girl return home, Odili quipped, “That lady has been kidnapped and that is the fact on ground, and only God can get her out. If God does not want her out, bring all the super powers or pay jaw-dropping ransom, she would still not come out.”
“What we can only do as a country is to work on our security tactics and continue to pray for her, so her fate won’t be fatal; but to pay ransom, as we might have done in the past, shows that Nigeria is a pro-terrorist nation,” he summed.
Meanwhile, the newly elected first chairman of National Theological Students Body, Mr. Okorie Chukwuemeka, has called on the European Union, the United Kingdom and United States of America to provide support for Nigeria in efforts to secure the release Leah Shaibu and others in captivity of the insurgents.
Chukwuemeka, of World Harvest Bible College and Seminary, Calabar, Cross River State, in his inaugural address, demanded that the plight of the girl should be of concern not only to the Christians but to all peoples, countries and organisations of conscience.
In his speech, Okorie said, “We are concerned because we are students of the Word of God, and we also know that people in captivity have the right to move freely and choose who to worship.”
It is estimated that no fewer than 30 people had been killed in the insurgent attacks which reportedly began in 2019 by some Islamist groups gung-ho at capturing power in Nigeria, especially its North-Eastern part.
The dominant unit of the insurgent groups has been Boko Haram, with its touted leader Shekau, featuring periodically in recorded online videos, issuing various threats of annihilation.
But President Muhammadu Buhari recently warned that Nigerians should realise that the military alone cannot stop Boko Haram, calling for concerted effort.
According to him, successful counter insurgency operations required “unity of efforts across multiple Ministries, Departments and Agencies, covering political, economic, law enforcement, intelligence and of course the military.”
The president had said his vision was to build a stable and prosperous Nigeria that would be the pride of future generations.
But he said this would not be achievable without peace, stability and security; thus urging Nigerians to embrace reforms that will entrench true democracy in Nigeria’s polity.
“In this regard, we have mobilised relevant agencies and international organisations to support the counterinsurgency effort in order to ensure success.
“This seminar is quite timely, in that since the outbreak of the Boko Haram crisis in the North East of Nigeria, the Nigerian Air Force and indeed the armed forces of Nigeria have been engaged in conducting counter-insurgency operations that have challenged the Services’ doctrine, tactics, training, Order of Battle and force protection architecture.
“Seminars like this are thus, necessary for armed forces like the Nigerian Air Force to draw from the experiences of other armed forces that have either previously or are currently engaged in counter insurgency operations,” he observed.