Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
The United Nations said it was ‘deeply relieved’ over the release of three aid workers and two other civilians abducted by Boko Haram late December on a Borno highway.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria Edward Kallon in a statement on Thursday said the release of the aid workers brought joy to the humanitarian community in Nigeria, families and relations of the abductees.
They were abducted by Boko Haram along Maiduguri-Monguno road on December 22, 2019, during an attack and released to the security on Wednesday afternoon.
“I am deeply relieved that some civilians, including three aid workers, who were abducted by non-state armed groups along the Monguno – Maiduguri road on 22 December 2019 have been released yesterday and are now safe. The whole humanitarian community in Nigeria shares the joy of the families, friends and colleagues of these aid workers, who can now put to rest the unimaginable anxiety of missing their loved ones,” Kallon said.
The humanitarian coordinator described the aid workers as dedicated humanitarians who were working to provide life-saving support to many people displaced by over a decade of insurgency and other vulnerable persons in the violence in northeast Borno State.
“They should never have been a target or have to endure the trauma of being held captive,” Kallon declared.
He, however, said the international community was still concerned about the fate of many other civilians abducted at different times by the insurgents in the volatile North-East states despite the “encouraging news” of the Wednesday freedom for the five abductees.
“I also remain gravely concerned for the lives of our ACF colleague Grace Taku, abducted near Damasak in July 2019, and Alice Loksha, a nurse and a mother, abducted during an attack in Rann in March 2018. Both are still held captive by non-state armed groups. The United Nations and its humanitarian partners call for their immediate and safe release,” he said.
He said he was “extremely worried” by the increasingly insecure environment in which aid workers are working to provide urgent and vital assistance to civilians affected by the insurgency.
A total of twelve aid workers have lost their lives in 2019, according to the humanitarian coordinator, a figure he said was twice more than that of 2018. He described the year as the worst among the most dangerous years for humanitarian actors in Nigeria.
The three aid workers and two civilians were released on Wednesday afternoon following “intense negotiation” with Boko Haram, multiple security sources said.