UN Condemns Mass Abduction of Displaced Persons in Nigeria

Abuja, Nigeria — The United Nations is condemning the reported mass abduction of over 200 internally displaced persons, or IDPs, in Nigeria’s Borno state last week. The U.N. Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria said the incident occurred while the victims, mostly women and children residing in government-run camps, went into the forest in search of firewood. 

Mohammed Malick Fall, the U.N. Nigeria resident and humanitarian coordinator, released a statement criticizing the abduction and calling for the immediate release of the victims. 

The majority of victims were women living in camps in Gamboru Ngala town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon and Chad. 

Fall said the incident, just days ahead of the International Women’s Day commemoration, was a reminder that women and girls are among the most impacted by conflict. 

He also called on Nigerian authorities to provide more job opportunities to IDPs within their camps so they don’t have to venture out and expose themselves to gangs and terrorists. 

According to local media reports, details of the abductions are only emerging now due to deliberate damage of telecommunications lines in the area by terrorists. 

Security analyst Kabiru Adamu says he has been monitoring the situation. 

“It started filtering in early in the week. The first instance we heard about 139, and then later 350. It wasn’t just one camp, it was about three camps. And so this is difficult in identifying the numbers of persons affected,” he said. “As we know, the state government has set up an emergency response team and that team is out there.” 

Neither the Borno state government nor federal authorities have commented on the kidnappings, and there has been no claim of responsibility.  

Borno is where the Boko Haram insurgency was launched in 2009. This week, the state government said 95% of Boko Haram terrorists are either dead or have surrendered to authorities.  

Adamu says the claims may be true, but notes that many parts of Borno remain insecure. 

“At the last count, over 80,000 of the families and members of these groups have surrendered either to the Nigerian military or to the Borno State government. So yes, successes are being made, [but] what we call overall success unfortunately hasn’t been made,” he said. “The ability of the government to stop these groups from generating funding, I don’t think the Nigerian state has done enough.” 

Nigeria’s police force of about 300,000 is controlled by the federal government. But for the first time, the government and Nigeria’s 36 states are seeking to create state police units.  

Security analyst Mike Ejiofor says that would be a step in the right direction. 

“We need to adopt new measures. That’s why I was excited when the president and governors backed the establishment of the state police. Security challenges are local, we must look for local solutions,” Ejiofor said. “The Nigerian police is too centralized to be effective.”

However, the plan for state police units has critics who say officials could use officers for ulterior motives.

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