UN livid over attacks on humanitarian facilities in Borno, demands protection for aid workers
By Ndahi Marama
The Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN, yesterday said Boko Haram insurgents had thrown Maiduguri and its environs into total darkness after cutting off the city from electricity supply from the national grid.
This came as United Nations, UN, expressed outrage over the destruction of humanitarian ‘accommodation and logistics’ by non-state armed group at Ngala, Borno State.
Ngala; a border community with Cameroon, was attacked severally on Saturday and Gambouru Bridge destroyed by suspected insurgents.
According to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, heavily armed jihadists carried out an “extremely violent” attack on a vital aid facility housing United Nations workers in North East Nigeria, on Saturday.
Islamists in several trucks fitted with machine guns stormed the humanitarian hub near a camp holding 55,000 displaced people in the remote town of Ngala on Saturday, humanitarian and military sources said.
Similarly, residents of villages along Damaturu-Maiduguri road, raised the alarm that Boko Haram insurgents had sustained attacks on the area without soldiers fighting back.
Boko Haram throws Maiduguri into darkness .
TCN in a statement from its General Manager, Public Affairs, Mrs. Ndidi Mbah, explained that supply to Maiduguri and its environs were cut off because the insurgent group, Boko Haram damaged a number of its transmission facilities thereby preventing it from supplying electricity to the area.
“The Transmission Company of Nigeria hereby informs the public that Maiduguri and its environs have been cut off from the national grid since January 17, 2020, due to damages to TCN’s equipment by insurgents.
The incident affected the 330kV transmission line between Maiduguri and Damaturu. Also, the Damboa – Maiduguri 132kV transmission line has equally been disconnected from the grid for sometimes, for the same reason,” said Mbah in the statement.
The TCN stated that it had located the fault on the Maiduguri – Damaturu line and had arranged to repair the line, adding that bulk electricity supply would be restored to Maiduguri on or before today.
“TCN pledges to continue to work to ensure bulk electricity transmission and grid expansion nationwide. The company wishes to use this opportunity to commend the Nigeria Armed Forces for their continued support especially in areas prone to insecurity. TCN regrets inconveniences caused by this problem to electricity consumers in the affected areas,” she added.
Attacks on UN facilities
For the UN, Kallon in a statement yesterday informed that the destroyed facility accommodated five UN staff at the time of incident, insisting that the facility was a direct target of a complex assault by heavily armed non-state armed group’s operatives.
The statement reads: “The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, strongly condemns the attack by non-state armed groups against the main humanitarian accommodation in Ngala, in the north-eastern State of Borno. “I am outraged by the extremely violent attack on this key humanitarian facility where five United Nations staff were staying at the time of the incident.
“On the evening of Saturday 18 January, the humanitarian hub in Ngala was the direct target of a complex assault by heavily armed non-state armed groups operatives. An entire section of the facility was burned down as well as one of the few vehicles UN agencies rely on for movement and aid delivery. Protective security measures deployed at the humanitarian hub prevented any harm to the staff who was in the facility.
“I am shocked by the violence and intensity of this attack, which is the latest of too many incidents directly targeting humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide. I am relieved all staff is now safe and secure. Aid workers, humanitarian facilities and assets cannot be a target and must be protected and respected at all times.
“Aid workers are providing assistance to more than 55,000 people in the town of Ngala, near the border with Cameroon. In 2019, over 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, searching for security and basic services. Humanitarian hubs in Borno State are critical to the humanitarian response. They provide operating environments for aid workers in remote locations where some of the most vulnerable people live or have sought refuge.
“Such incidents have a disastrous effect on the lives of the most vulnerable people who depend on our assistance to survive. Many of them had already fled violence in their area of origin and were hoping to find safety and assistance in Ngala. This also jeopardizes the ability for aid workers to stay and deliver assistance to the people most in need in remote areas in Borno State.”
“I call on all parties to the conflict to respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality which guide the assistance the humanitarian community delivers in the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.”
“The United Nations and NGO partners in Nigeria are working to bring vital assistance to over seven million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. They are increasingly the target of attacks. Twelve aid workers lost their lives in 2019, which is twice the number in the previous year. Two aid workers remain in the captivity of non-state armed groups – ACF staff member Grace Taku abducted near Damasak in July 2019, and Alice Loksha, a nurse and a mother, kidnapped during an attack in Rann in March 2018. The United Nations and its humanitarian partners call for their immediate and safe release.”
Residents decry attacks
Meanwhile, residents of villages along Damaturu-Maiduguri road, Borno State, have raised the alarm that Boko Haram insurgents have sustained attacks on the area, without soldiers fighting back.
Recall that many residents were stranded early January following the attacks, and the convoy of a military commander was also attacked in the area.
Governor Babagana Zulum of the state had accused soldiers of extorting commuters on the road.
The residents who spoke yesterday said the attacks had been on the increase since the governor came down hard on the soldiers.
“The soldiers have left and we are on our own now,” a resident said.
“Since that day that the governor shouted at soldiers, it appeared all of them left. After that day, there have been attacks on our villages on daily basis. Travelers are being kidnapped every hour and all the military roadblocks are no more there, because these attackers always go without being confronted by the military.”
Another resident said villagers are moving en mass to Maiduguri and some to Damaturu in search of safety.
“Villagers in Auno, Jakana and Benisheik are fleeing in their hundreds to Maiduguri. The insurgents attack at least twice daily in these villages,” he said.
“It is also sad that nobody is talking, except the governor. The elders of Borno are not talking. The NSA, chief of staff to the president, NNPC GMD and EFCC chairman are all from Borno and none of them is saying anything about this sustained attacks on Damaturu-Maiduguri road. We are really scared right now, and that is why our people are running for safety.”