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Nigerian Army wants international NGO’s to operate with caution in northeast

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has called on humanitarian organisations operating in the Northeast to operate with understanding of the prevailing security dilemma in the zone.

Buratai made the call when the International President of Medicins San Frontier (MSF), Dr Christos Christuo, led his team on courtesy visit to Army Headquarters on Friday.

The Chief of Policy and Plans, Nigerian Army, Lt.-Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, received the delegation on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff, a report by the News Agency of Nigeria said.

He commended the contributions of MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, towards alleviating the medical suffering of the victims of insurgency in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.

Buratai said that while the government and the armed forces recognised the effort of MSF, it must understand the conflict of interest and security dilemma that are prevalent in conflict zones.

He said that in as much as international humanitarian organisations were meant to observe neutrality and impartiality in conflict situations, the security forces must be allowed to play their roles.

According to him, “we also know that in spite of your neutrality and impartiality, situations sometimes make it difficult for you to have the reach you would like to have neutrally without the security.”

He explained that such neutrality could be practicable if the conflict happens to be an interstate one, adding that war against terrorism might not respect that.

“To the terrorists, everything is a target, they don’t know what it is to even attack you as a group that is concerned and responsible for their well-being because they are not trained in that manner.

“They are only trained to kill for killing sake and for what they believe which does not advance the cause of humanity in any way.

“So, we still have to define a way of handling this security dilemma especially in far remote areas which you also would want to reach without any form of security.

“Don’t forget, if anything happens to you, it is the same security people that must not be seen around you that would take the blame, they would still be the same people that would be tasked to rescue you wherever you are.

“Even the negotiators cannot go to anywhere if security is not provided for them.

“On this note, I want to say that we must continue to operate with understanding so that while you are providing succour for the people, you also don’t come into harms way that may eventually jeopardise what you have sworn to do.

“If any of you is kidnapped, it will rubbish all the work that you have been doing. It will even escalate the conflict the more and it will also put undue pressure on the government of the state where you are operating.

“So, I want to crave your indulgence and understanding on this issue so that those in the field operate with understanding with those who are actually in charge of security in the respective areas where you are operating,” he said.

Earlier, Christou disclosed that the organisation was aimed at alleviating the medical suffering of people in conflict zones.

Christuo said that their services were based on their medical ethics of impartiality which means treating everyone no matter what irrespective of religion, race or regions they come from.

He disclosed that the organisation had its footprint in Nigeria since 1996, adding that it currently operate five hospitals in the North East where the country is battling with insurgency.

Christuo said that the visit was to interact with Nigerian army and find ways to do more by reaching more victims in need of medical assistance in the conflict zone.

“We want to continue to engage and work together with army to improve our response and to facilitate our effort where ever possible. Our team are ready to do more with the provision of the needed security.

“When I met my team in Pulka, they did not ask me about their personal security but the only question they asked me is how can we do more. How can we lift more people, we can see them coming, but what about those that cannot reach us.

“That is why we are here to see how we can do more. I’m not here to talk. I am here to listen and share ideas on how to do more for those who need us,” he said.

R-L; President Muhammadu Buhari, International President  Doctors without Borders, Mr Christos Christou, Deputy Director Operations, Pierre Mendiharat, Head of Mission Belgium, Mr Andrew Mews, Humanitarian/Country Advisor Nigeria, Prof Simon Alozieuwa,  Head of Mission, France Mr David Therond during an audience with Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) held at the State House Abuja. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE.

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