Amid insecurity occasioned by Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and herdsmen attacks on communities across the nation, the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC) has disclosed that Nigeria is rated fifth largest humanitarian crises country in the world.
President of the Committee, Mr Peter Maurer made the disclosure yesterday when he met President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
President Buhari had told Maurer that remnants of Boko Haram in the North-east region of the country were bandits, warning that the government would continue to treat them as such.
According to him, Boko Haram had been degraded, but its members were still a nuisance around Lake Chad and surrounding islands.
“We are cooperating with Chad, Cameroon, Niger Republic, and other countries. We are also using the Air Force quite effectively. They are bandits, and we will continue to treat them as such”, President Buhari stated.
He said the government was concentrating on repairing damaged infrastructure, rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, securing their communities, so that they can return home.
He applauded the support of the ICRC and other humanitarian organizations, noting: “The situation of the displaced persons is very pathetic.Some children don’t know where their parents are, neither do they know where they come from.
“We are focusing on education and healthcare, along with rebuilding of infrastructure.
“The agency formerly under the leadership of Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd) and now headed by Major-General Paul Tarfa (retd) is quietly making an impression. We are dedicating lots of resources to the area”. He added.
Buhari disclosed that great progress has equally been made in disabusing the minds of people that the insurgency was religious.
“How can you kill people, and say ‘God is great.’ It’s either you don’t know that God, or you don’t know what you are talking about. God is God of justice.And the people have understood the message well, so recruiting is now difficult for the insurgents,” the President said.
Maurer said Nigeria was the 5th largest operation of ICRC worldwide, and the organization would continue to render humanitarian action to people affected by violence.
Peter Maurer also stressed upon the need for the ICRC to engage with all stakeholders to be able to carry out its neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action. “The essence of the ICRC’s role as a guardian of the Geneva Convention is to talk to all parties to armed conflicts. This does not confer any legitimacy on any party. It means we do our utmost to ensure a minimum of humanity in war.”
Maurer noted that as a result of ICRC’s engagement in Nigeria, since January 2019 over 258,000 people from areas affected by armed violence got access to health care and over 640,000 received food or agricultural support.During the same period, over 22,000 detainees were visited.
On the recent killing of two officials in the North-east, he said: “We are shaken by the killing of our staff, but not discouraged. Humanitarian assistance should continue, and we applaud the hospitality of Nigeria.”
The ICRC President said relationship will be further strengthened with Nigeria, submitting that “the more we see activity from Nigerian authorities, the easier it is for us to add here and there.”
Early the ICRC stated that international humanitarian law more relevant than ever in Nigeria today.
According to the ICRC, the meeting with President Buhari followed a two-day visit of Mr Peter Maurer to Maiduguri and Monguno.
The humanitarian agency stated: ”The suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who have been displaced several times due to the armed conflict is alarming.”
According to ICRC, as August 2019 marked the 70th Anniversary of the universally ratified Geneva Conventions, the meeting highlighted how international humanitarian law (IHL) is more relevant than ever in Nigeria today.
Maurer highlighted the commitment of the ICRC to continue alleviating the suffering of the people affected by the armed conflict in the North-East, by delivering humanitarian relief and fostering an environment for an increasing respect of international humanitarian law.
At the heart of IHL lies the protection of civilians, of detainees, of the wounded and sick and other not participating in hostilities. In Nigeria, the authorities have taken several steps – ICRC has provided support to some, such as the strengthening of IHL training for the military – to improve respect for IHL. These efforts and other efforts need to be sustained and amplified. Full respect for the law requires effective mechanisms at the domestic level to ensure incidents are investigated and perpetrators held accountable.