The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, on Thursday, said only three of the five persons abducted by Boko Haram terrorists on December 22, were aid workers said.
Mr Kallon, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nigeria, said he was “deeply relieved that some civilians, including three aid workers, who were abducted by non-state armed groups” last year, were released 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, ” Mr Kallon said in a statement.
“These dedicated humanitarians were working to provide life-saving support to millions of Nigeria’s most vulnerable in north-eastern Borno State. They should never have been a target, or have to endure the trauma of being held captive.”
Mr Kallon said despite the “encouraging news”, he is concerned about the fate of the other civilians abducted in that incident.
“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.”
He said “the United Nations and its humanitarian partners “call for their immediate and safe release.”
Boko Haram checkpoints
The top UN official said he is equally “extremely worried by the increasingly insecure environment that humanitarians are working in to provide urgent and vital assistance to civilians affected by the crisis.”
According to him, “The humanitarian community is troubled by the increasing trend in vehicular checkpoints set up by non-state armed groups along main supply routes in the states of Borno and Yobe.
“These checkpoints expose civilians and humanitarians to heightened risks of being killed or abducted. I urge all parties to the conflict to protect the civilian population, including aid workers, from such grave violations of international laws, especially women and children who are among the most vulnerable and are caught up in the violence.
Mr. Kallon said the increasingly hostile environment in the northeast has taken a serious toll on the lives of the humanitarians.
“A total of 12 aid workers have lost their lives in 2019,” he recalled.
“This is twice more than in 2018, which we thought was amongst the most dangerous years for humanitarian actors in Nigeria.
“Aid workers and the assistance they provide to the most vulnerable populations, make the difference between life and death for entire communities in crisis-affected Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. Their security is paramount and I call on all parties to assure the safety of aid workers and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid.”
When the news of the five released abductees broke, last night, it was initially gathered that two of them were staffers of IOM and Red.
These claims were, in the same report, disputed by IOM and Red Cross, who said that none of their staffers was abducted in the said incident.
Further investigation by this newspaper discovered that the two other civilians were private security officials working as consultants for some NGOs.
A top security source familiar with the rescue, on Thursday, explained to PREMIUM TIMES that the two men hid their identity and claimed to be working for IOM and Red Cross, to save their lives.
“It has been the tradition of Boko Haram not to spare the life of any security worker be them from the military, police or private security guards,” the source said.
“They don’t have mercy on security operatives. They don’t even welcome any ransom payment, even if it was generously offered. They kill them at once.
“That was the reason why the two men had to lie that they were staff of the NGOs they mentioned because that relatively guarantees the safety of their lives.”