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Managing conflicts between military, NGOs

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ONE of the worrisome fallouts of the war against the Boko Haram Islamic terror in the North East is the unhealthy relationship between our armed forces and the myriads of non-governmental organisations, NGOs, involved in humanitarian activities in the sector.

Since the crisis developed into a full military conflict in 2012, our armed forces have been under strong criticisms by NGOs such as Amnesty International, AI and Human Rights Watch over alleged violations of the human rights of captured suspected terrorists.

This opinion was also adopted by some Northern groups and the United States Government under former President Barack Obama. This informed America’s unwillingness to sell crucial military weapons to Nigeria which, in turn, gave Boko Haram more time to consolidate.

The Army complained that these accusations and sundry clandestine activities of some NGOs undermined the military’s efforts to end the insurgency.

It is strange and unfortunate that this unhealthy relationship between our armed forces and volunteer groups providing succour to victims of the conflict has continued, four years after the change of regime and command personnel in the war in 2015.

AI and the Army remain in a virtual state of war because the former remains adamant that the Army regularly commits “crimes against humanity” on innocent civilian targets which the army vehemently denies.

Last year, the Army even threatened to expel AI and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, for allegedly undermining military operations by providing aid to Boko Haram. On May 30, 2019, Army Chief, Lt-General Tukur Buratai, threatened that the Army would no longer tolerate a situation where NGOs provide humanitarian support for Boko Haram fighters.

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We wish to re-emphasise that the two groups are indispensable for tackling the Boko Haram threat. While the military have to do their job to flush out the enemies, humanitarian groups must help the millions of victims and displaced persons with access to food, medicines, shelter and other needs.

The NGOs must partner with the military under the well-established international rules of engagement to enable the nation achieve its objectives of ending the crisis while catering for vulnerable people and groups.

However, any form of support for any person or groups of persons whose intent is destruction of Nigeria or parts of it and her peoples is sabotage of our sovereignty. That cannot be condoned.

We call for a probe of the relationship between the Army and the NGOs to ascertain what is really happening. When a war like the Boko Haram conflict drags for long, elements of selfish profiteering inevitably set in.

We insist that the war against Boko Haram and any other military operations and the humanitarian activities attached to them must be conducted within the ambit of internationally-set rules.

We say no to impunity or sabotage.

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