Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN), yesterday, raised serious concerns over attacks on civilians and humanitarian aids in the northeast.
The alarm was raised at a joint briefing in Abuja by the visiting EU Commissioner for Conflict Management, Janez Lenarčič, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms Sadiya Umar Farouq; and the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon.
Addressing journalists, Lenarčič said in view of his mandate, crisis management, which includes humanitarian aid and civil protection, he had to put some emphasis on the humanitarian situation, in particular, in the northeast.
The EU envoy underlined that all sides and all those involved in the crisis were obliged under international humanitarian law to allow access to the suffering populations. Lenarčič further underlined the need to ensure security and safety of humanitarian workers in the northeast.
“Regrettably, recently, they have become targets which is completely, totally unacceptable under international humanitarian law and those who were targeted were both international and even more often, national humanitarian workers, your fellow Nigerians. We should not allow that to be repeated,” Lenarčič said.
While saying that the European countries remained committed to support Nigeria in its humanitarian and development activities in the northeast and elsewhere, Lenarčič further said the EU looked forward to the dialogue on the withdrawal of restrictions of the activities of humanitarian workers.
Earlier, Lenarčič underlined that Europe and Nigeria shared their common fight against terrorism and support the effort of Nigeria to combat the menace of terrorism and also that the EU took into account, all the sufferings that the crisis entailed.
“I am talking about millions of people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, including those that are beyond the reach at the moment of humanitarian community in the territory under the control of organised armed groups,” Lenarčič stated.
On his part, Kallon said the UN is extremely worried about the challenges faced by civilians and aid workers in the northeast of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
Kallon recalled that in recent weeks, the international community witnessed upsurge in violent attacks from non-state armed groups and an increasing trend of illegal checkpoints on major supply and commercial routes directly targeting civilians, authorities and aid workers in Borno State.
He added that over the past year, 180,000 civilians have been forced to leave everything behind in search of safety and basic services, with some of them doing so for the second or third time.
Kallon also said over 1.8 million people, across the three crisis-affected states which is almost the equivalent of the entire population of Slovenia, the home country of the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, were still living in camps or hosted in other communities who are themselves, extremely vulnerable.
“This mission especially comes at a critical time when the people of Borno State are facing increasing challenges. And today, we are here to send a joint message. We are extremely worried about the challenges faced by civilians and aid workers in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe,” Kallon said.
Speaking on the safety of humanitarian workers, Farouq said the framework for a high level dialogue is being put in place by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
Farouq added that critical stakeholders in the humanitarian sector will be reached and decisions will be made on how to move forward as far as the northeast is concerned.
Meanwhile, the EU, yesterday announced its first emergency aid package of €26.5 million to Nigeria for the year 2020.
The EU, in a statement made available to Saturday Sun, added that the aid package will provide food aid, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, shelter, basic primary healthcare and education for children caught up in the conflict.
“The EU is one of the leading donors of humanitarian and development aid in Nigeria with more than €830 million provided since 2014,” the EU stated.