By Duku Joel, Maiduguri
As part of her mandate to strengthen humanitarian activities in the Northeast and bring sanity into their activities in providing aid to displaced people, the minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq has convened a three day workshop for humanitarian actors in Maiduguri.
The workshop, with the theme, ‘Civil-Security Cooperation in Humanitarian Interventions in the North East’ was declared opened by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, Rt. Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi.
In her address, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq said her ministry was worried over the current mistrust among humanitarian actors working in the Northeast, adding that such mistrust must be addressed for the benefit of the affected population hence the need for the stakeholders’ workshop.
“It is apparent that where civil-security relations are poorly managed, humanitarian action may inadvertently compound other security problems.
“Meanwhile, it has become obvious that it is increasingly more difficult for humanitarian organizations to operate independently in humanitarian environments. The presence of security operatives in many of the crisis ridden areas make those communities safe and accessible for humanitarian actors to carry out their activities.
“Therefore, the need to ensure cordial, and constructive relations between civil and security actors cannot be over emphasized ” Hajiya Farouq said.
The minister regretted how the absence of synergy and mistrust among actors led to the recent unfortunate suspension of some INGOs operating in the region.
“The differences in the guiding principles and rules of engagements of the military, security agencies and the international and local Non-Governmental Organizations have been the bane of productive co-existence in the North East.
These differences often lead to an adversarial relationship fraught with mistrust and misperception.
It also led to the banning of two (2) INGOs by the Military in August 2019. As we are aware the ban has been temporarily lifted. We appreciate the intervention of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari and the patience and cooperation of all stakeholders,” she said.
In his good will address, the UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria Mr. Edward Kallon suggested five options for solving the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria.
According to him, “Working in a counter-terrorism environment with a functioning Government like Nigeria requires: (i) constructive engagement, transparency and information sharing; (ii) adapting strategies and global best practices to the counter-terrorism environment; (iii) needs-based, principled humanitarian action that hold each other accountable; (iv) due recognition of the sovereignty of the Government; and (v) joint risk analysis and mitigation,” Mr. Kallon said.
Mr. Kallon who was very loud on the role of the military as first line humanitarian providers in the region emphasized better coordination, security analysis, systematic information sharing among others, said the presence of all humanitarian actors at the meeting in Maiduguri was a demonstration of the common goal of saving lives which they all share.
“We must pursue a coordinated joint security analysis and establish systematic information sharing with consequences for non-adherence to civil military coordination. The humanitarian policy of stay and deliver in northeast Nigeria remain challenged and requires enhanced risk mitigation, maintaining access, coordination, enhancing advocacy and more flexible funding. State level leadership and ownership remains critical. Logistics constraints to deliver humanitarian cargo must be overcome to ensure an effective response.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are here today because we share common goals of saving lives and protecting people. We want to recognize the role of the military and security forces in the fight against terrorism and insecurity in the country. We should always remember that in 2015 and 2016, when the Nigeria armed forces liberated most areas of Borno State including Bama, Monguno and Rann. They were the first providers of basic humanitarian services. They carried out polio vaccination and were amongst the first to fight against severe acute malnutrition. In Bama, for example, every single day, dozens of mothers and children would cross the road separating the IDP camp from the military-run clinic where they knew they could find the support they urgently needed,” Mr. Kallon added.
Mr. Kallon said the International Community in conjunction with the Nigerian partners have scaled up humanitarian assistance to over 15.1 million people in the last three years.
“The international community joined all Nigerian partners to rapidly scale up the humanitarian response in accessible LGA and provided humanitarian assistance to 5.6 million people in 2017; 5.5 million people in 2018 and over 4 million in 2019 as of October”, Mr. Kallon disclosed.
In his address, Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum announced that the State Government is working on an enabling legislation which will soon be signed into law for the regulation of activities of NGOs and INGOs operating in the State.
Gov. Zulum noted that Borno State is not against the operations of NGOs in the state however warned them to play by the rule, adding that “sanity must be put into the system”.
The Governor also threw his weight behind the action of the military on any erring partner/NGO operating in the state.
He praised the Minister of Humanitarian Affair, Disaster Management and Social Development for her initiative in organizing the workshop.
Four papers focusing on strategies to enhance cooperation between the military and humanitarian aid workers were presented by officials of the United Nations and the military involved in civil-Security collaboration as well as guest speakers. The workshop is expected to continue with work sessions.