The United Nations, Chad, Niger and Cameroon appealed on Friday for help for millions of people in the Lake Chad Basin region forced to flee the violence of Boko Haram and hit with repeated droughts and floods that have brought malnutrition and disease.
But while the radical Islamist militants operate out of Nigeria and U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien said that is where most people have been displaced by their attacks, Nigeria did not send anyone to the United Nations event.
U.S. and European Union diplomats said they were disappointed that Nigeria did not attend the event chaired by O’Brien on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
The Nigerian U.N. mission was not immediately available to comment on its absence.
A regional offensive by Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon earlier this year drove Boko Haram from much of the territory it held in northern Nigeria. But the militants have since struck back with a renewed wave of deadly raids and suicide bombings.
“These (displaced) families are being used as ammunition because it is the children that are used as bombers in markets and in train stations,” said Chad’s Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat. “Trade is virtually wiped out in this area.”
Several U.N. diplomats at the event warned that the aid emergency in Lake Chad Basin risked being forgotten amid other humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.
Niger Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said the region was in the midst of a “genuine disaster.”
“We need massive assistance from the international community,” he said. “It is the population that has shared with these refugees and displaced people the little they have while they themselves are living in extremely vulnerable situations.”
The United Nations said some 2.3 million people have been forced from their homes since May 2013, and a quarter of a million of them have fled from Nigeria into Cameroon, Chad and Niger, many walking hundreds of miles.
“Droughts and floods hit the region repeatedly. Malnutrition and disease outbreaks hover at emergency levels. Some 5.5 million people do not have enough to eat,” O’Brien said. “The emergence of Boko Haram has pushed them over the edge.”
O’Brien said U.N. appeals for 2015 to help those displaced people and refugees in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger were all less than half-funded.
The United States on Friday announced $6.8 million in funding for regional aid efforts.
The Trent Reports
The Trent was the first to report that Nigeria’s government was missing from this meeting which was centered on Boko Haram. The report went viral prompting a statement from Aso Rock.
The session, referred to in the Aso Rock press statement was titled, Lake Chad Basin at A Cross Road: Addressing Urgent Humanitarian Needs in An Overlooked Crisis, held on Friday, September 25, 2015 and a high level government representative of the Nigerian Government was expected to be at the event which was organised by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and chaired by Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
“The mission of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is to mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors,” according to its website.
Reuters reports that, “U.S. and European Union diplomats said they were disappointed that Nigeria did not attend the event chaired by O’Brien on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly”.
Nigeria’s neighbours, Chad, Niger and Cameroon were represented at this event.
Below is the full press statement from the Nigerian Presidency on the subject matter which essentially says that the meeting was “unofficial” and that media reports, like that of The Trent, that say it is important for the Nigerian government to have been represented at the meeting were being “mischievous” and “uncharitable”.
PRESIDENT BUHARI REMAINS FULLY COMMITTED TO IMPROVED NATIONAL SECURITY AND SUCCOUR FOR IDPs
Contrary to the erroneous impression that may have been created by reports that the Nigerian delegation to the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly missed a meeting on help for displaced persons, President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration remain fully committed to the rehabilitation and well-being of all persons who have been displaced or adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Indeed, the war against terrorism, improved security across Nigeria and additional measures to give succour to internally displaced persons have been central to discussions President Buhari has had with other world leaders since his arrival in New York on Thursday night.
The issues were dominant in the President’s conversations on Friday with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the King of Spain, His Majesty Don Felipe VI and former Prime-minister Gordon Brown who came with former President Olusegun Obasanjo to discuss the actualization of the safe schools initiative, which is of special interest in parts of Nigeria most vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
President Buhari is handling his duty as leader of the Nigerian delegation to this year’s General Assembly with the greatest possible diligence and will certainly not tolerate any tardiness on the part of the delegation in seizing every possible opportunity to advance Nigeria’s interests.
This notwithstanding, it must be realized that it will be near impossible for any national delegation, no matter its size, to participate in all the meetings that are simultaneously happening in and around the General Assembly in New York.
The meeting at which Nigeria was reportedly absent was not one the official events of the United Nations for which President Muhammadu Buhari and his modest delegation are in New York.
While the meeting referred to in media reports is commendable, it was not the only one or the most important of such meetings in New York that are paying attention to the problem of insecurity, migration and violent extremism in the Lake Chad area and the rest of the world.
Nigeria was represented earlier today at an important side event devoted to the North-East called by the UN Population Fund, UNFPA on “Building Stability and Resilience in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin Countries.”
President Buhari fully conscious of his responsibility to Nigeria and will accept nothing short of the best for Nigerians in the meetings taking place in and around the United Nations.
Anyone trying to create an impression of dereliction of duty, based on the Nigerian delegation’s absence at an unofficial meeting, is only being mischievous and uncharitable.
SSA to the President
(Media & Publicity)
September 26, 2015