Residents of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, woke up to a disturbing news about soldiers invading a United Nations building.
The soldiers, according to PREMIUM TIMES checks, were there in search of arms that were allegedly smuggled into the building by UN officials.
The building invaded by the soldiers is popularly known as Red Roof. It was acquired by the UN which currently uses it as a hostel for its personnel. Red Roof was a property of a former governor of Borno State, late Mala Kachalla.
Sources familiar with the incident said the soldiers arrived the Red Roof building in dozens at about 2 a.m., when they immediately secured all routes leading to the building.
A personnel of UN who witnessed the incident said the soldiers said they acted base on an information made available to them by the SSS that they observed sinister movement going on within the expansive property that was fenced with high walls.
The source, who pleaded anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media, informed PREMIUM TIMES that the incident has since promoted the UN to suspend its humanitarian activities in the state.
“The soldiers came at about 2 a.m. and surrounded the entire area around the UN building. And at about 3 a.m., they demanded that they wanted to go into the building to search for arms.
“But the UN officials denied them access insisting that it was against their policy to allow armed soldiers invade their offices or buildings, especially at such odd hours of the night.”
The soldiers, who were led by one colonel said they got information from the SSS that arms were being ferried into the buildings in large wooden containers.
“We all know there was nothing like that because the containers that they were referring to were building materials which the UN is using to upgrade or build some structures sitting the acquired property. Presently the property serves as a place of accomodation for all the UN humanitarian workers in Maiduguri.
“When the soldiers wanted to force their way into the property, the security men had to lock the gate.”
The source the soldiers and the UN security personnel argued for hours until about 7 a.m.when they finally allowed them in.
“They searched the entire building and found nothing”, said the source.
“The soldiers later withdrew from the area at about 7.45 a.m.”
The search of the UN building happened a day after rumours went wild on social media that the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, was being housed in the said building.
PREMIUM TIMES arrived the scene of the incident at about 7.45 a.m. only to catch the glimpse of the soldiers leaving the premises of the UN building.
A civil society leader in Borno State, Ahmed Shehu, was also at the scene of the incident at the time PREMIUM TIMES arrived the Red Roof.
He said the civil society would investigate what led to such hostile disposition of soldiers towards the UN.
“We got the information late last night that this place has been surrounded by soldiers, that is why we are here,” he said.
“But whatever may be the soldiers reason, the invasion was not a good indicator for security. Already, people are agitated and are even bearing wrong perception about the humanitarian workers here. This could embolden the IDPs who see the humanitarian workers as their enemies.
“It is even sad to hear that all UN flights coming into Maiduri have been cancelled for today; though it has not been confirmed.”
He said civil society networks will meet with the UN officials and probably come up with a statement later.
Attempts to get across to the spokesperson of the military command and control centre in Borno, Onyema Okechukwu, wasn’t successful as his phone was switched off.
One of the media officials of the UN in Maiduguri, Rabiu Musa, was contacted on phone to confirm the incident. But he said he could not immediately comment on the issue because he was out of town.
He promised to revert as soon as he becomes acquianted with what actually happened.