The presidency has spoken on the Nigerian army’s announcement on Friday that it has “suspended” all the activities of UNICEF in the North-east.
Garba Shehu, spokesperson to President Muhammadu Buhari, said the Nigerian Army and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) will meet on Saturday over the issue.
Mr Shehu disclosed this to PREMIUM TIMES, even as Amnesty International condemned the suspension.
”The Military Commander and his team have a meeting with UNICEF tomorrow, to resolve the issues of concern regarding some of the actions of UN agency. They will resolve their issues by tomorrow,” Mr Shehu said in a text message in response to an inquiry over the issue by this newspaper.
The spokesperson avoided commenting on whether President Buhari approved the army’s announcement before it was made.
The army in a statement by Onyema Nwachukwu, a colonel and deputy director public relations, had accused UNICEF of deploying spies to support insurgents in the North-east.
The army did not present any evidence in its accusation of the international organisation and did not state if it had a presidential approval.
The army’s statement was on Friday condemned by an international human rights organisation, Amnesty International. In its reaction, Amnesty International in a statement signed by Osai Ojigho, its director in Nigeria, called on Nigerian authorities to reverse the suspension.
“Amnesty International strongly condemns attempts by the Nigerian army to demonize UNICEF’s lifesaving work in the northeast of the country, where the Boko Haram conflict has created one of the deadliest humanitarian disasters in the world,” Mr Ojigho said.
”We see the suspension of UNICEF as part of a wider drive to intimidate international humanitarian and human rights organizations who are working to save lives in this devastating conflict.
“The Nigerian army has accused UNICEF of ‘aiding Boko Haram’ – an absurd charge. The suspension of UNICEF will, in fact, deprive those whose lives have been devastated by the Boko Haram conflict from receiving much-needed humanitarian assistance.
“We call on the Nigerian authorities to reverse the suspension of UNICEF immediately. The Nigerian military should focus on protecting lives rather than smearing NGOs.”