UN worried by abduction of aid workers

UN worried by abduction of aid workers

At least three humanitarian workers and a Nigerian soldier were, on Tuesday, abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in the northern part of Borno State, officials have said.

The humanitarian workers were traveling from Maiduguri to Monguno, a town in the northern part of Borno, when they ran into an ambush by Boko Haram.

The United Nations Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (UNOCHA) confirmed the development but said they had no information about the identity of the two abductees, nor were they aware of the organisation they work for.

However, the Borno State government confirmed that one of the three abductees was a staff of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).

Yabawa Kolo, the Executive Chairperson of SEMA, said the abducted staff, Muhammed Monguno, was the camp manager of the IDP Camp in Monguno.

Mrs Kolo told journalists that her organisation has since “reported the matter to the police and other security agencies.”

She said security agents are currently working on information received from the driver of the car, who was spared by the insurgents.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered from sources familiar with the incident that the traveling aid workers were on Tuesday waylaid at about 11 am at a location in Guzamala local government area of Borno State.

“They forcefully disarmed the soldier and took away three other aid workers, but spared the driver of the vehicle to go and inform the employers of the four abductees about the incident,” said an operative of Civilian-JTF who pleaded anonymity.

“Two of the civilians work with (an) NGO and one with SEMA, but I am not at liberty to mention the name of the NGO – that’s the warning we received from the security agents investigating the matter,” said the source.

But, when our reporter contacted the Borno State police command, the spokesperson, Edet Okon, a deputy superintendent of police, said he was not aware of the incident.

The Army spokesperson, Sagir Musa, also informed PREMIUM TIMES that he was “not aware” of the incident.

We are not aware of any missing aid worker – UN

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Officials at the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) have confirmed that none of the aid workers under their watch is missing.

“At the moment, we have no confirmation on the number and identities of those abducted,” said Eve Sabbagh, Head of Public Information at the UNOCHA in Nigeria.

“However, we are extremely concerned by the widespread practice by non-state armed groups of setting up illegal checkpoints along main roads heightening risks for civilians to be abducted, killed or injured, and especially for aid workers who are directly targeted.

Ms Sabbagh told PREMIUM TIMES on the phone that the recent incidents of attacks on aid workers and civilians are even more worrying “even more troubling as it comes at a time when our efforts are focused on the scale-up required to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The humanitarian community calls on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and aid workers, and ensure the safety of aid workers and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable women, children and men.”