Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The United Nations has condemned an attack by Boko Haram on its facilities and aid workers in the troubled North-east of Nigeria.
A statement yesterday by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, condemned Saturday’s attack on its humanitarian hub in Ngala, a Nigerian border town with Cameroon.
It had last Thursday expressed apprehension over the growing insecurity in the area, even as some of its workers in some Borno towns had been recalled to the state capital, Maiduguri.
Kallon said: “On the evening of Saturday, January 18, the humanitarian hub in Ngala was the direct target of a complex assault by heavily armed non-state armed groups operatives. An entire section of the facility was burnt down as well as one of the few vehicles UN agencies rely on for movement and aid delivery. Protective security measures deployed at the humanitarian hub prevented any harm to the staff, who were in the facility.
“I am shocked by the violence and intensity of this attack, which is the latest of too many incidents directly targeting humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide.
“I am relieved all staff are now safe and secure. Aid workers, humanitarian facilities and assets cannot be a target and must be protected and respected at all times.”
He warned that continuous attacks on UN facilities in the North-east would hinder efforts at assisting vulnerable people who depend on assistance to survive.
“Many of them had already fled violence in their area of origin and were hoping to find safety and assistance in Ngala. This also jeopardises the ability for aid workers to stay and deliver assistance to the people most in need in remote areas in Borno State,” he added.
He called on “all parties to the conflict to respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality”, which guide the assistance the humanitarian community delivers in the North-east.
“The United Nations and NGO partners in Nigeria are working to bring vital assistance to over seven million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. They are increasingly the target of attacks. Twelve aid workers lost their lives in 2019, which is twice the number in the previous year.
“Two aid workers remain in the captivity of non-state armed groups – ACF staff member, Grace Taku abducted near Damasak in July 2019, and Alice Loksha, a nurse and a mother, kidnapped during an attack in Rann in March 2018. The United Nations and its humanitarian partners call for their immediate and safe release.
“Aid workers are providing assistance to more than 55,000 people in the town of Ngala, near the border with Cameroon. In 2019, over 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, searching for security and basic services. Humanitarian hubs in Borno State are critical to the humanitarian response. They provide operating environments for aid workers in remote locations where some of the most vulnerable people live or have sought refuge,” the statement said.