By Rafiu Ajakaye
Nigeria’s army on Friday suspended the activities of UNICEF in its insurgency-wracked northeast, the first such drastic action in recent memory, accusing the agency of sabotaging counter-terrorism operations.
Onyema Nwachukwu, an army spokesman, said in a statement that the decision followed intelligence that several nonprofit agencies had been aiding Boko Haram terrorists in demoralizing the troops.
The suspension has “become inevitable since [UNICEF] has abdicated its primary duty of catering for the wellbeing of children and the vulnerable through humanitarian activities and [is] now engaged in training selected persons for clandestine activities to continue sabotaging the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts of troops through spurious and unconfirmed allegations [of] alleged violations of human rights by the military.”
The decision comes days after Amnesty International urged the International Criminal Court to investigate both the Nigerian army and terrorist group Boko Haram for war crimes, claiming that the government had failed to probe allegations of misconduct and grave rights violations against some top army commanders.
The army has denied the charge, calling Amnesty International and some other foreign bodies closet supporters of the militants.
Nwachukwu said operations of some humanitarian agencies suggested that they benefit from the reign of terror in the country's northeast, where up to 30,000 people have been killed and over 2 million displaced.
He said the alleged UNICEF training of persons to sabotage army operations started on Dec. 12 and ended the next day in Maiduguri, but stopped short of giving details of the training and how it undermines the military.
“The theatre command will not tolerate this kind of sabotage from any individual, group of persons or organization,” he said.
“We call on all NGOs and members of humanitarian agencies to keep to their legitimate norms in the discharge of their acclaimed humanitarian duties.”
UNICEF has yet to issue any official reaction to the suspension.