The Nigerian Army Thursday announced a blacklist of Action Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organisation operating in Northeast Nigeria for allegedly ‘aiding and abetting’ Boko Haram terrorists.
A statement issued by the ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’ Theatre Command in Maiduguri, Borno State, said the army has ‘credible intelligence’ that the NGO supplies food and medication to the outlawed armed group.
The army did not provide details of the ‘credible intelligence’ it has. It also did not state if it has the permission or support of the presidency to announce such a ban.
PREMIUM TIMES Thursday reported how Nigerian soldiers sealed the offices of Action Against Hunger in Borno and Yobe states after ejecting all staff working there.
The army did not immediately give reasons for its action until hours after the reports.
The Country Director of Action Against Hunger, Shashwat Saraf, had told this newspaper that there was no communication between his organisation and the army since the offices were sealed.
The army later issued a statement late Thursday night signed by the spokesman of Operation Lafiya Dole, Isa Ado.
Mr Ardo said the army decided to seal off the offices of the organisation on the grounds of “sabotage of the counter insurgency operations in the Northeast.”
“The Theatre Command Operation LAFIYA DOLE (TC – OPLD)) has observed with utter disappointment and concern the notorious activities of some Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) working in the North East (NE) Nigeria.
“The subversive and actions of the NGO Action Against Hunger (AAH) persisted despite several warnings to desist from aiding and abetting terrorists and their atrocities The TC – OPLD has on many occasions raised alarm over this unwholesome practices of some NGOs and expressed same position during meetings with the NGOs operating in the NE Theater of Operation.
“Consequently, the AAH has been declared persona nan grata for aiding Boko Haram Terrorists/Islamic State West Africa by supplying them food and drugs despite warning from the TC – OPLD.
“The Command has obtained several credible intelligence indicating AAH as one of those NGOs operating in the NE that is notorious in supplying food and drugs to the criminals in the area.
“Members of the public are enjoined to continue to give credible information on the activities of the marauders/criminals and their supporters in the NE Theatre of operation.
“The OPLD wishes to assure the public of its resolve and determination to always partner with credible NGOs and CSOs to cushion the impact of humanitarian crisis generated by the criminals in the NE in line with the international best standards.”
The Action Against Hunger had prior to the release of the army statement issued a statement on its website saying the army was making a false allegation against it.
The organisation insisted that its operation was basically humanitarian and had nothing to do with the claims of the army.
“On Wednesday, September 18, Action Against Hunger was ordered by Nigerian army soldiers to close its main office in Maiduguri, Borno State, northeastern Nigeria,” a statement published on the NGO’s website reads.
“This decision, without notice and without any explanation, jeopardizes the assistance Action Against Hunger provides to the most vulnerable people in Borno State and halts, with immediate effect, the assistance Action Against Hunger provides to millions of people in Maiduguri, Monguno, and Damasak.
“Action Against Hunger calls on the competent authorities to let us continue our work in the region.
“Action Against Hunger delivers neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian aid to millions of people in Borno State by providing basic services to the most vulnerable, especially women and children.
“We do not have further comments at this stage.”
Nigerian Army’s history of similar allegations
In December 2018, the Nigeria Army issued a similar ban on the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) following an allegation that the global humanitarian outfit was spying for Boko Haram.
The allegation, also without any evidence, generated heated reaction and condemnation. The army later withdrew the ban.
Before the army rescinded the ban on UNICEF, it alleged that the UN agency organised workshops in Maiduguri, in which it trained people for “clandestine” activities that were “sabotaging counterterrorism efforts.”
Similarly, in the same week of December 2018, the Nigeria army again called for the ban on the operations of Amnesty International in Nigeria following its critical reports of the army’s operation.
The army accused the rights organisation of “secretly sponsoring dissidents, and using Boko Haram conflicts and other political or security issues to promote instability.”
To that effect the Nigeria army said it had “no option than to call for the closure of Amnesty International offices in Nigeria, if such recklessness continues.”
Both UNICEF and Amnesty International have since continued their operations in Nigeria.
Action Against Hunger describes itself as “the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes.”
For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organisation said it has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone, it said.