At least 140,000 persons have been displaced by the resurgence of Boko Haram activity this year in Borno State, the United Nations Undersecretary-General, Mark Lowcock, has said.
Mr Lowcock, who coordinates UN’s Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, visited Nigeria this week on an official visit that took him to Maiduguri, the base of Boko Haram insurgency, from where he carried out an assessment of the situation in the North-east.
He spoke via a statement issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA).
Mr Lowcock recognised the efforts Nigerian authorities and other bodies have made “between 2016 and 2018″, to regain control of areas previously ravaged by the insurgents,” that assisted more than two million displaced people to return home.
“But renewed violence, most of it perpetrated by Boko Haram insurgents, has sparked an upsurge in forced displacement in Borno, with more than 140,000 people forced to move this year alone,” he said.
“Many farmers have missed multiple planting seasons and more than three million people are food insecure.”
He said he had “over the past year” have “watched with growing concern the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Borno.”
Mr Lowcock said a ten-year conflict and violence committed by Boko Haram and other non-state armed groups had destroyed communities in Borno.
“In my visits to Borno on September 2017 and October 2018, I met many of the ordinary people who have been the victims of this crisis,” he recalled.
“More than seven million people currently need humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.”
The UN official acknowledged that though “military and security measures against the insurgents are a crucial and valid part of the response led by the Nigerian authorities, such action needs to be proportionate and avert amplifying to the hardship of civilians, huge numbers of whom have suffered terribly as a result of the actions of the terrorists and insurgents.”
He added that military action alone “will not solve this problem.”
“It is therefore extremely important that the Nigerian Government, including through institutions like the North-east Development Commission, is also implementing wider measures to address the root causes of the crisis, relieve humanitarian suffering, and promote stabilization, recovery, and development.
“I strongly support these measures.”
He said he had during a visit this week been able to review the situation with senior officials in the Nigerian Government, as well as the military and other authorities in Borno and NGOs.
“With everyone I have met, I have agreed that NGOs – through their rich networks and capacity to reach people, and their expertise and experience in operating at the community level – have a very important role to play.”
Mr Lowcock said all the humanitarian organisations working in Nigeria with funding from the international community must “operate in full compliance with international standards, including counter-terrorism related conditions, national laws, and humanitarian principles.”
He added that maintaining such standards was not only perfunctory but practical prerequisite for funding from the major donors.
“And it is important to recognise that all the international NGOs working in the North-east are authorised to do so through the government registration process and local approvals from the relevant authorities,” he added.
The Nigerian government has continuously claimed that the Boko Haram insurgents have been ‘degraded’ or ‘technically defeated’ but they still carry out sporadic attacks on military formations and civilian targets.
The military has also denied claims that the insurgents have increased deadly attacks that have claimed the lives of hundreds this year alone.
The current Theater Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, Olusegun Adeniyi, blamed the inability of troops to end Boko Haram on lack of “army aviation.”
Mr. Adeniyi, a Major General, bragged of making Boko Haram “a history” if provided with fighter helicopters.