- UN asks FG to protect aid workers
Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday disclosed that the ongoing war on Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist organisation based in Northeast would be brought to an end before December 2020.
Shortly after the NAF announced its ambitious plan, the United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon called on the federal government to reinforce the safety and security of all humanitarian workers in the Northeast.
The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar disclosed the plan to end the Boko Haram insurgency before the end of the year in Maiduguri yesterday while addressing troops of the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole.
The Northeast has been the centre of terrorist operations since 2009 with no fewer than 27,000 killed, some two million people displaced and communities destroyed in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe States.
With these costs of fighting the insurgency, Abubakar said the NAF would ensure that no individual or group of individuals undermined the territorial integrity of Nigeria, saying the NAF “has the mandate
to end the war on terrorism in the Northeast.”
He said: “We must therefore keep working hard. I am very sure at least, before the end of this year or latest by the end of this year, we will be rounding up this operation.
“So, work towards this target. Be assured that the NAF will continue to support you. The Commander has adequately briefed me. I have also been monitoring what you have been doing in the last few months, starting with Operation Long Reach I and Operation Long Reach II.
“We are satisfied. We are very excited that you are making substantial progress to eliminate the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, so that our people can go back to their farms and live their normal lives.”
He, therefore, urged the troops “to ensure that everything is being done to ensure that Northeast and Nigeria is secured. On our part at the NAF Headquarters, I want to assure you that we will continue to support your operations, not only in terms of training you require, the equipment you require, but all the welfare requirements that you need in order to make you effective in your assigned task.”
He revealed that the NAF had got excellent support from the federal government, noting that it had not had such type of support in many years.
In the last few years, the air force chief explained more than 22 aircraft were procured while delivery of 16 more is currently awaited.
He pointed out that without the aircraft in the present security challenges, the security situation in the country would have been unimaginable.
Abubakar said: “Assuming these aircraft were not acquired, what would have been the situation? That is what we keep forgetting.”
He, therefore, commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly for passing appropriate laws that enabled the NAF to really have the resources to acquire this aircraft.
On the attack on aid helicopter, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator,
Kallon condemned the attack that occurred in Damasak, Borno State, which resulted in the death of two civilians including a five-year old child.
According to him, several others were injured, and a humanitarian helicopter was hit, sustaining serious damage.
Kallon said he welcomed the government’s commitment to investigate the attack and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.
He said: “I deplore that a UN Humanitarian Air Service helicopter was hit by bullets during the attack. No aid workers were on board at the time and crewmembers were all safe.
“My thoughts are also with the crew and I commend them for piloting the chopper back to safety during this critical situation.”
He stated that the attack and damage to the helicopter would severely affect the ability of aid actors to provide urgently needed assistance to vulnerable people in remote areas across Borno State.
According to him, the UN Humanitarian Air Service is essential to evacuate wounded civilians and remains the backbone to facilitating humanitarian access, thereby enabling UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to safely and securely reach the most vulnerable populations.
He stated that in 2019, UNHAS transported 66,271 passengers and 147 megatons of humanitarian assistance, as well as conducted 30 medical and 70 security evacuations.
He said: “I strongly condemn any attack against civilians, humanitarian assets or aid workers and call on all armed parties to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian property and personnel.
“I furthermore call on all parties to allow and facilitate safe and unimpeded access for humanitarians to deliver life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people in the north-east.”
He warned that insecurity and violent attacks continued to hamper the ability of people to access basic services or livelihoods and recover from the protracted crisis in north-east Nigeria.
He said the United Nations and NGO partners would continue to work to bring life-saving assistance to 7.8 million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, many of them in remote areas.