International NGOs complicit in Boko Haram activities in North-East Nigeria, report reveals

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A report by the Centre for Africa Liberation and Socio-Economic Rights (CALSER) says some international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) are culpable of unlawfully aiding Boko Haram/ISWAP activities in North-East, Nigeria.

Instead of providing humanitarian assistance to victims of the Boko Haram crisis, CALSER said these INGOs bolster and encourage the carnage being perpetrated by the insurgent group.

This and other findings were made public on Tuesday in a report compiled by CALSER and signed by Executive Director Dr. David Idoko in Abuja.

The centre raised alarm over the number of INGOs in operation in the North-East under various nomenclatures.

According to CALSER, there is multiple evidence that funds from the coffers of these INGOs – most of which come from Francophone countries – end up in the hands of terrorists,.

While some of these groups divert food and other relief items meant for the IDPs to the camp of the Boko Haram terrorists, the centre added that others provide them with medical services.

More baffling, though, the centre disclosed that certain INGOs engage in propaganda on behalf of the Boko Haram group, especially when they come under heavy bombardment from the Nigerian troops.

Among others, however, CALSER urged relevant authorities to compel international NGOs operating in the North-East to disclose their sources of funding as well as their mission.

It added that INGOs that have operated for more than five years and made no significant impact in tandem with their mission should be expelled from the country.

Meanwhile, those found to be aiding and abetting the activities of Boko Haram terrorists should be proscribed and expelled from the country with immediate effect.

Read full report below:

Introduction:

The war against insurgency in Nigeria has come with its attendant socio-economic consequences in the economy of North-East Nigeria since 2009 when the Boko Haram group began its violent campaign.

There have been concerted efforts by the federal government in Nigeria to address the challenges, and this has seen to the deployment of troops to the theatre of operations in North-East Nigeria. Aside from these interventions by the government, some international NGOs have also been involved in mitigating the effect of the war in the region by providing humanitarian assistance to compliment the efforts of the government.

This is on the heels that the role of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in wars situations and the consequences of their presence for the dynamics of these conflicts cannot be overemphasized. More important for their influence is the financial resources that they can command, which, in no small extent, derive from their close association with donor governments, as their implementing partners.

This complex relationship between donor governments and NGOs has contributed to an increasingly political role of NGOs and has undermined some of the benefits resulting from their non-state character.

This is aside the fact that the presence of NGOs in conflict zones is hardly a new phenomenon. The International Committee of the Red Cross has cared for the victims of modern conflict situations for some time. More recently, a number of international humanitarian organizations like Care International, Oxfam, ActionAid among others have been highly visible players in coping with disasters.

What is different about the human rights NGO activism in zones of conflict is that many groups are now playing a leading role in trying to defuse nascent or full blown conflicts, as opposed to just cleaning up the human suffering that results.

NGOs have developed a wide range of conflict prevention and resolution activities including monitoring conflict and providing early warning of new violence; opening dialogue between adversarial parties; playing a direct mediating role; strengthening local institutions for conflict resolution; and helping to strengthen the rule of law and democratic processes in countries affected by violent conflict.

Like international relief agencies, NGOs focusing on conflict resolution respond to major failures on the part of the international community to deal effectively with global problems. Too often, intergovernmental bodies and agencies have proved too slow and cumbersome in dealing with emerging urgent crisis situation as demonstrated in Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, DRC and Darfur. Also, both international agencies and governments often have institutional and political limitations that hamper their effectiveness in situations of enormous complexity and delicacy.

NGOs facilitate up to date extensive fact-finding missions, engage in dialogue with a wide range of groups involved in conflicts, map out strategies for defusing conflict and galvanize action by national governments and international organizations to help stabilize tense situations. Situations in Burundi, Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan, Darfur, DRC and Rwanda provide examples of where NGOs have played a decisive role in heading off major conflicts.

However, despite the critical role that NGOs have continuously played in helping to stabilize the conflict situations, the future engagement of NGOs within the international agencies and governments, remains vague. Partnerships between NGOs and governments or international agencies are inherently difficult and awkward. NGOs are on one hand strong critics of these agencies and government policies.

In the case of Nigeria, there seem to be widespread condemnation of some of the activities of INGOs wherein accusations have been made by the government and the citizens alike on the culpability of these organizations in the ongoing Boko Haram crisis in North East Nigeria. This situation has brought about mutual suspicion on the role of international NGOs in the fight against Boko Haram Insurgency. Consequently, this report seeks to examine the role of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Boko Haram conflict in North-East Nigeria and the consequences of their presence for the dynamics of these conflicts.

Issues:

Provision of Humanitarian Assistance:

The role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in humanitarian relief has thrived in recent years, but that rise has been characterized by a changing and increasingly difficult strategic and operating context for these entities.

Paradoxically, while perhaps never more significant, relief organizations now confront more opaque and more problematic strategic environments as well as a variety of enduring and bedeviling operating level challenges. At the strategic scale, NGOs are dependent upon the often unpredictable decisions of critical states for funding, are enmeshed in a service delivery structure characterized by competition, complexity, and diffuse authority and accountability and are divided as well by growing differences in how participating organizations define their identities, especially in light of more than a decade of experience with human rights-related humanitarian interventions.

The case of Nigeria presents a very delicate situation for a number of reasons. The number of INGOs in North East Nigeria is alarming and under various nomenclatures. The activities of some of these INGOs runs short of providing humanitarian assistance to victims of the Boko Haram crisis, but rather they seem to bolster and encourage the carnage been perpetuated by the insurgent group.

Findings from the theatre of operations in North East Nigeria corroborates this position, which has led to a running battle with the military authorities striving to begin the profiling of some of these organizations in a bid to identifying those with clearly defined mission and objectives and those acting as spies or carrying out espionage activities on behalf of the Boko Haram group.

The Nigeria INGO Forum:

Findings revealed that the INGOs in Nigeria have come together under a platform called the Nigeria INGO Forum, with a mission to provide a joint platform for INGO members to promote a collective approach to efficiently and effectively coordinate interventions and address key issues of common interests.

To also provide a coordinated approach through which INGOs, the Government of Nigeria (GoN), the UN, donors and other external stakeholders can exchange information and shared expertise, and establish guidelines for a more coordinated, efficient and effective use of aid resources in Nigeria.

NIF was established in 2014 to facilitate the coordination and cooperation of humanitarian and development INGOs and between INGOs and external stakeholders including Government of Nigeria, Nigerian civil society, UN agencies, diplomatic actors, and donors. In 2014, membership of NIF was fourteen (14) agencies and by the end of 2019, NIF has increased to forty-seven (47) members including six (6) observers.

Findings also indicate that there are over 50 more of such INGOs that were not captured as members of the NIF, yet they are actively present in North East Nigeria. And this indeed calls to question on the activities of these INGOs.

Funding for Terrorist activities:

The peculiarity of the Boko Haram crisis in North-East Nigeria is such that the illicit flow of funds has mainly contributed to the festering of the Boko Haram crisis. It has been argued in some quarters that the Boko Haram group enjoys funding for their activities from the unlikely of sources that include politicians that are benefiting from the crisis, bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom, as well as funds from the terrorist network around the world.

This fact has been stated and evidence provided, especially with the array of INGOs in operation in North-East Nigeria. While it can be stated some of the INGOs have ulterior motives with regards to their operations in North-East Nigeria, it can thus be argued that indeed the activities of some of the INGOs in operation in North-East Nigeria portends grave danger if urgent and proactive steps are not taken to curtail their excesses by the relevant authorities.

The military authorities have not been successful in tracking the inflow and disbursement of millions of dollars that have passed through the coffers of the INGOs in North East Nigeria. The discreet nature of their transactions has made matters worse.

While there are multiple evidence that suggests that funds from the coffers of these INGOs end up in the hands of the Boko Haram terrorist group, it was also established that most of these funds do come in the country from the francophone countries in cash.

The military authorities have on numerous occasions intercepted huge foreign currencies meant for delivery to the Boko Haram group by some of the INGOs under the guise of purchasing relief materials for IDPs.

Boko Haram has depended on financial donations from sympathizers and external funding for it operations. In 2002, Osama Bin Laden sent an aide to Nigeria with $3 million. Bin Laden’s aide was instructed to disperse the money among groups that believed in Al-Qaeda’s cause. The International Crisis Group reported that Boko Haram received some of that money, but the exact amount is undetermined.

In March of 2015, the current leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Later that month ISIS’s English-language magazine approved of the alliance with Boko Haram.

When ISIS accepted Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance, an ISIS spokesman informed fellow Muslims looking to join its ranks that “a new door for you to migrate to the land of Islam and fight” had opened within Africa.

In April of 2016, the commanding general of the U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF), Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, said that ISIS and Boko Haram are increasingly sharing “tactics, techniques and procedures.” General Bolduc highlighted that an ISIS weapons convoy was detected departing Libya and believed to be headed to the Lake Chad region to provide support to Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has not only depended on external funding, throughout its movement it has received financial support from local sympathizers and politicians. Many Northern Nigerian politicians have also been accused of giving Boko Haram financial support over the years.

Nigeria and the international community over the years have struggled to suppress Boko Haram’s ability to raise money. The Nigerian government has had some success in highlighting Boko Haram’s financial support network within Nigeria and internationally. Since the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in May of 2015, Nigeria has seen positive gains in its fight against Boko Haram. The MNJTF has been successful in regaining control of territory once occupied by Boko Haram, the majority of which is territory from which Boko Haram launched many of its kidnapping and bank robbery operations. Depriving Boko Haram of territorial safe havens will cut into its ability to generate funds. With recent military success and positive results in implementing follow the-money tactics, Nigeria, with the help from the international community, can further disrupt Boko Haram’s ability to fund its existence.

With Boko Haram’s illicit trafficking operations taking place across borders, the Nigerian government should enhance border security operations. Increasing border security will impact Boko Haram’s ability to move freely across borders and its ability to take part in illicit trafficking. Impacting illicit trafficking will need to be done through multilateral cross-border cooperation. The Nigerian government and its neighbors should be willing to work together to secure their borders to impact Boko Haram’s finances.

The International NGOs in North-East Nigeria:

The number of international NGOs in operation in North-East Nigeria is indeed alarming according to findings from this report. More worrisome is the fact that most of these organizations have no clear cut description of their mission.

Some come under various nomenclatures and enjoys massive funding from donor countries. Worthy of mention is the number of French NGOs in North-East Nigeria. This report was able to identify that these NGOs have been in operation for close to nine years, and most of them have paid for hotel accommodations for upward ten years at a go.

This statement of fact indeed buttresses the position of the Nigerian Military that indeed some international NGOs are aiding and abetting the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group. A good example can be found in places visited like Maiduguri, where supposedly large shipments of humanitarian items are imported into the country by some International NGOs. These items end up in the camp of the Boko Haram group.

INGOs in the northeast provide humanitarian support to terrorists in violation of international protocol and laws:

It was also observed that INGOs in the northeast provide humanitarian support to Boko Haram terrorists in violation of international protocol and laws. They divert food and other relief items meant for the IDPs to the camp of the Boko Haram group. In most instances, some medical NGO have been reported to be providing medical services to injured Boko Haram members, which goes against the provisions in the International Humanitarian Law in armed conflict situations.

This fact was buttressed from revelations from locals in some communities that stated that there are numerous instances where some INGOs move truck load of food items and medical supplies and abandon them in the middle of nowhere and before dawn these trucks and the items would disappear.

It was stated that some INGOs move about with unmarked trucks which makes it difficult to track their identities. The reason for this it was gathered was to leave no trace behind for the military to trace. This is also on the heels that there have instances where the military intercepted such consignment and it lead to the suspension of one of the INGOs operating in North East Nigeria for distributing food and other essential items to the Boko Haram group.

INGOs in the northeast engage in the blackmail of the military:

This report was able to uncover that the bulk of the information about the operations of the Nigerian military in North-East Nigeria are untrue. As a statement of fact, some INGOs engage in propaganda on behalf of the Boko Haram group, especially when they come under heavy bombardment from the Nigerian troops.

This much was gathered from multiple sources in North-East Nigeria, and it further lends credence to the position of the Nigerian Army and other critical stakeholders.

The report also revealed that some foreign interest contracted some well-known INGOs in Nigeria to act as the intellectual arm of the Boko Haram group through the issuance of press statement and reports accusing the Nigerian Military of human rights abuses. These tactics are meant to cause a distraction when there seems to be intense pressure on the Boko Haram group.

Multiple sources in North East Nigeria corroborated this fact wherein it was stated some INGO often visit IDP camps with recording devices and throw food items in the air for IDPs to scamper for while recording them to paint a picture despair.

It was also gathered that the bulk of the rape allegations made against the military in IDP camps were fabricated by some INGOs who offer young girls and women monies to appear before the camera to make such allegations.

It was also discovered that the reports by some INGOs is intended to present Nigeria as a country with a military that has no good reputation, which would in turn make the country ineligible for international support. The strategic aim of the INGOs is to scandalize the military to a point where the only option left is to withdraw troops from areas where they are operating, which would create an environment that would be conducive for a Boko Haram comeback to terrorize people in these places.

INGOs engage in human rights abuses:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was unanimously adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations through the General Assembly Resolution 217A(111) on the 10th of December, 1948. Since its declaration, it has become fashionable for most countries of the world (Nigeria inclusive) to entrench the catalogue of rights in their national constitutions. Regrettably, in Nigeria, some INGOs have been carrying acts against the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through their activities in North-East Nigeria.

The activities of INGOs in North-East Nigeria also transcend the various allegations of complicity in the festering of the Boko Haram crisis. It was also gathered that most of the INGOs are perpetrators of gross human rights abuses.

Some INGOs in North-East Nigeria are actively involved in human trafficking and exploitation. There is a particular case of a French NGO that carries out documentaries in IDP camps depicting a picture of gloom as against the wishes of women and children and they consequently send these documentaries to donor organizations soliciting for funds. They are also notorious for other inimical acts that are dehumanizing to IDPs in their various camps.

Some INGOs in North East Nigeria have also been identified to be notorious for making locals go against their wishes to coercing them into making submissions and divulging information about their communities which ultimately ends up in the hands of the Boko Haram group to aid their operations.

It was discovered that extracting such sensitive information about the movement of the military in the area on security surveillances ultimately leads to the series of ambush carried out by the Boko Haram group against the military.

Conclusion:

The Centre for Africa Liberation and Socio-Economic Rights after an extensive review of the activities of some INGOs in North-East Nigeria concludes that they have not helped much in line with their mandate. What can be seen in any case is a betrayal of these roles and responsibilities and a total waste of donors’ resources in pursuing narrow interests in the country.

These INGOs have acted against all known international protocol in rendering humanitarian assistance to victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in North-East Nigeria, as they have turned the crisis to a viable business venture and this has seen to the perpetuation acts that undermine the efforts of the Nigerian military towards decimating the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Recommendations:

The Centre for Africa Liberation and Socio-Economic Rights in the light of the forging recommends the following to be implemented by the relevant agencies in Nigeria in a bid to address the various challenges posed by the activities of INGOs in North-East Nigeria.

INGOs operating in North-East Nigeria must be made to disclose their sources of funding to the Nigerian government in a bid to entrench a regime of transparency and accountability.

INGOs operating in the country must make full disclosure of their mission and comply with strict laws and regulations to be put in place.

INGOs that have operated for more than five years and made no significant impact in tandem with their mission should be expelled from the country.

INGOs found to be aiding and abetting the activities of Boko Haram terrorists should be proscribed and expelled from the country with immediate effect.

INGOs should publish periodical financial transactions in line with the National Financial Intelligence Unit and other extant laws.

The Nigerian government and international community must adapt and find ways to prevent Boko Haram from funding its operations.

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