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Boko Haram: Nine Borno LGAs inaccessible after UN helicopter attack

Boko Haram: Nine Borno LGAs inaccessible after UN helicopter attack  The Punch

Olaleye Aluko

No fewer than nine local government areas in Borno State cannot be reached with humanitarian aid due to the suspension of air operations by the United Nations, following a Boko Haram terrorist attack on one of its helicopters.

A top official at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs confirmed the development, even as a report by the International Organisation for Migration showed that five other LGAs had been inaccessible for humanitarian supplies before the helicopter attack.

The LGAs, which could not be reached in the last one week, were Dikwa, Gamboru-Ngala (with over 120,000 internally displaced persons), Kala Balge, Damboa, Mobbar, Bama, Gwoza, Kukawa and Monguno (with about 200 IDPs).

On July 2, Boko Haram terrorists had attacked Damasak in Mobbar LGA, killing two civilians and shooting a UN Mission humanitarian helicopter, which was badly damaged.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, had confirmed the terrorist attack and called on the Federal Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Kallon noted that the UN Humanitarian Air Service was essential to its aid operations, having transported 66,271 passengers and 147 megatons of humanitarian assistance in 2019.

He, therefore, lamented that the attack on the UN helicopter would affect the organisation’s ability to reach remote areas.

Following the attack, the UN suspended its air operations in the North-East for at least one week.

An authoritative UN official, who did not want to be named, said, “It was a one-week suspension to enable the humanitarian communities and the Nigerian government to review safety conditions of all those locations. The more they (Boko Haram) are attacking military locations, the more dangerous it is for humanitarian services.

“Our helicopters only land in places where there is military presence. So, if these guys are not targeting military locations, it means we may be running into those clashes because our helipads are in military bases. And that was what happened in Damasak on July 2; it was just a matter of the helicopter landing at the time a clash was going on. We have about five helicopters serving the region.

“In Borno State, the list of LGAs that we normally reach by helicopter and which were unreached in the last one week are Dikwa, Gamboru-Ngala, Damboa, Mobbar, Bama, Gwoza and Monguno, Kala Balge and Kukawa.”

Additionally, according to the IOM DTM 2020 report, before the Boko Haram attack on the UN helicopter in Damasak, five LGAs in Borno State were unreached due to terrorist activities.

The report said, “The most-affected state of Borno continues to host the highest number of IDPs at 1,506,537. It is also notable that the number of displaced persons in Borno has not gone down, though populous LGAs of Gubio, Guzamala, Kukawa and Nganzai continued to remain inaccessible due to insecurity.”

On its graphs for illustrations, the IOM added Abadam and Marte LGAs to inaccessible areas.

The Borno State Government said it had no comments on the report, and would not like to take issue with the UN agencies or its operations.

Mr Isa Gusau, spokesperson for Governor Babagan Zulum, when contacted, said, “First of all, it will not be right on our part to make a comment on that. It probably may not be right – we don’t want to take issue with the UN. You are the one informing me – it is not a public statement. I am afraid we don’t have a comment.”

The acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col Sagir Musa, had yet to respond to calls and text messages to his line as of press time.

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