By Omeiza Ajayi
The United Nations said, yesterday, that Boko Haram insurgency was far from over in Nigeria.
It also, while paying respects to fallen humanitarian aid workers as well as civilian victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in Abuja, said the 10-year-old insurgency has claimed no fewer than 27,000 civilians.
The UN’s position comes against the Federal Government’s claim that the capacity of the insurgency group had been largely decimated, to the extent that it could no longer pose a threat to the nation’s corporate existence.
United Nations Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, stated this at the launch of “Holding On,” a virtual reality experience in remembrance of 10 years of crisis in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
This came as Head of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN-OCHA, Ms Edem Worsonu, called for greater security for humanitarian workers, lamenting the harsh operating environment that had seen the UN lose some of its staff.
“I call on everyone to please do their best to ensure our security and safety because the operating environment is not easy at all,” she said.
Worsonu, however, declined comments on the ongoing efforts to secure the release of some aid workers who are still in Boko Haram captivity.
Kallon lauds stakeholders in addressing crisis in North-East
Delivering a keynote address at the launch, Kallon lauded the efforts of all stakeholders in addressing the crisis in the North-East, urging the Federal Government to continue with its “carrot and stick approach” to ending the insurgency.
He said: “Our collective efforts have made a difference over the past 10 years, especially when we have worked closely together in the interest of the people living in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, who are impacted by the devastating consequences of armed conflict. Together, we have helped people eat when they were hungry.
“However, the crisis that started10 years ago and has devastated entire communities in North-East Nigeria is still far from over. It is not time for us to spare any effort. In this very critical period, we must redouble efforts, with the support of everyone at all levels locally, nationally and internationally.
“Rising insecurity in recent months has pushed over 130,000 newly displaced people on a long trudge. Arriving en masse to displaced camps, they are looking upon us for aid and protection. Despite challenges, we cannot let them down.
“Against a backdrop of increased and violent attacks against civilians and humanitarian actors, more than ever, we must unite and combine efforts to secure progress and achievements.
‘’We must continue building on years of relentless solidarity from first and foremost, Nigerians, government actors, civil society and local communities who have themselves suffered loss and from the international humanitarian community.”
Expresses condolences to victims’ families
Kallon, who expressed his condolences to the families of some 27,000 civilians who have lost their lives since 2009 due to the decade-long Boko Haram conflict in the North-East, decried the horrifying multiple attacks at Nganzai last weekend, when more than 50 innocent civilians lost their lives in one of the deadliest and most severe incidents in recent years.
He said: “This is a stark reminder that the conflict is still actively raging in the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, and the subsequent humanitarian crisis is far from over.
‘’We also grieve for the loss of fellow aid workers in the North-East, in Kaduna State, in other states, and in the very place where we are gathered today (yesterday).
‘’Their memories live on vividly in our hearts and minds and their dedication in service of humanity should continue to be an inspiration to us all.”
How it began
Kallon said the seeds of Boko Haram insurgency had been sown, even before the violent clashes with security agents began in 2009.
However, it was not until 2009 that “clashes at Maiduguri’s central mosque claimed the lives of about 700 people.”
Kallon said the incident was a precursor to what has now become a regionalised armed conflict with non-state armed groups and one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world.
He said the only solution to the crisis in North-East Nigeria was peace, adding that the Boko Haram crisis in the zone presented an intricate web of issues that required the collective collaboration of different actors in search of a durable solution.
“We must prioritise prevention always, a development where possible and humanitarian action when necessary,” he said.
Gov Buni wants more support to affected states
In his remarks, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State called for more support to the affected states, particularly in the area of reconstruction and resettlement.
He said: “Yobe is only second to Borno State in the level of devastation that the Boko Haram insurgency has caused, but we have now moved from a humanitarian situation to the reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement phase.
‘’Yobe State stands in continued need of the UN and our development partners to support reconstruction and resettlement initiatives.”