Nigeria’s military on Friday, December 14 suspended the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF from operating in the country’s ravaged northeast over claims it was training “spies” who are supporting Boko Haram.
The military later on Friday said it had “lifted the three months suspension” after an emergency meeting with representatives of UNICEF.
The earlier statement said that UNICEF was “training selected persons” to sabotage counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts.
“There is credible information that some of them are indulging in unwholesome practices that could further jeopardize the fight against terrorism and insurgency, as they train and deploy spies who support the insurgents and their sympathizers,” said a press release signed by Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu.
“Consequently, the Theatre Command Operation LAFIYA DOLE is suspending the operations of UNICEF in the North East theatre until further notice,” the military said, AFP reported.
“This has become inevitable since the organization has abdicated its primary duty of catering for the wellbeing of children and the vulnerable through humanitarian activities and now engaged in training selected persons for clandestine activities to continue sabotaging the counter terrorism and counterinsurgency efforts of troops,” The Guardian Nigeria reported the statement as adding.
The statement said that sabotage was via “spurious and unconfirmed allegations bordering on alleged violations of human rights by the military,” Today.ng reported.
It further said information obtained by the command indicated that UNICEF “commenced the said training on Wednesday 12 December 2018 at the Ministry of Finance Conference Hall, Musa Usman Secretariat, Maiduguri and ended on 13 Thursday December 2018,” Sahara Reporters reported.
“The Theatre command will not tolerate this kind of sabotage from any individual, group of persons or organization,” it continued.
The original statement appeared to have been inaccessible from the PR Nigeria website on Friday afternoon, but some users saved screenshots.
.@HQNigerianArmy bans @Unicef on NE #Nigeria, accusing it of training and deploying “spies who support the insurgents and their sympathisers”. +4m people need humanitarian aid in the region, many of them kids w/ malnutrition pic.twitter.com/HJixJRMkeJ
— Phil Hazlewood (@philhazlewood) December 14, 2018
PR Nigeria sent The Defense Post the full statement, which matches posted screenshots.
A UNICEF spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“It’s self explanatory, when you read it you will understand everything,” said army public relations director Brigadier General Sani Usman to AFP about the suspension statement.
In a later statement, Nwachukwu said that the Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole held an emergency meeting with representatives of UNICEF.
“During the meeting, the Theatre Command admonished the representatives of the organization to desist from activities inimical to Nigeria’s national security and capable of undermining ongoing fight against terrorism and insurgency,” the statement said.
“Consequently, after extensive deliberations on the need to seek modalities to work harmoniously with the security agencies in the theatre of operation, the Theatre Command has henceforth lifted the three months suspension earlier imposed on UNICEF activities in North Eastern Nigeria,” it added.
More than 27,000 people have been killed in the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria since 2009 and 1.8 million are still homeless.
The fighting has triggered a humanitarian crisis in the wider Lake Chad region, where the Islamists have stepped up attacks in recent months.
With reporting from AFP. This post was updated on December 14 to include the reversal of the suspension.