- Soldiers have invaded UN building Maiduguri, Borno state in search of arms
- The residents were said to be in disarray as the soldiers invaded the building
- The building invaded by the soldiers is popularly known as Red Roof, according to sources
The United Nations system in Nigeria has confirmed the Friday August 11 invasion of its premises in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, by Nigerian soldiers.
Premium Times reports that Edward Kallon, UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator, said in a statement released to the media that the invasion was unauthorized.
NAIJ.com had earlier reported that soldiers in their large numbers invaded the UN main building in the early hours of Friday claiming to be searching for arms hidden there.
Red Roof was a property of a former governor of Borno State, late Mala Kachalla.
The military also confirmed the incident in a separate statement saying its action was in line with the ongoing cordon and search operation within Maiduguri metropolis.
The cordon and search operation was going on at a time speculations intensified in the state capital that Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, might be hiding in one of the UN buildings.
The military had in the past weeks intensified its search for the Boko Haram leader following the 40-day ultimatum given to the Theatre Commander in Borno arrest him.
As the 40-day ultimatum approaches, the soldiers are responding to all manners of intelligence, including rumours on social media.
The UN’s statement signed by Samantha Newport, head of communications, UNOCHA reads:
“Abuja, 11 August 2017 – The Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, has expressed grave concern over the unauthorized search of a United Nations base for humanitarian workers in Maiduguri, Borno State.
“At circa 0500 hours today, members of the Nigerian security forces entered the UN base for humanitarian workers in Maiduguri without authorization. The security forces carried out a search of the tented camp and left the area at circa 0800 hours.
“The United Nations does not have any information at this time regarding the reason or motivations for the unauthorized search. The Humanitarian Coordinator is working closely with the Government of Nigeria to resolve this issue.
“The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s north-east is one of the most severe in the world today,” said Mr Kallon.
“I am extremely concerned that these actions could be detrimental to the critical work that is being carried out every day to support the most vulnerable in the region and I call upon the Government of Nigeria to provide clarification.
“The United Nations and more than 50 non-governmental humanitarian organisations are working in support of the Government of Nigeria to provide aid, including food, safe water and medicine, to some 6.9 million people in need in the northeast.”
The military’s statement also reads:
“As part of ongoing counter insurgency operations, the Theatre Command Operation LAFIYA DOLE has been conducting several clearance as well as cordon and search operations in urban and rural areas within the Theatre. The clearance operations effort has been yielding several successes.
“It has forced the Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) to change tactics and resort to employment of suic*ide bombers to target military locations and the populace. This necessitated the need to intensify Cordon and Search in Maiduguri metropolis and environment.
“In the last one week cordon and search operations were conducted in Jiddari –Polo, Muna Garage, Jakana amongst several other areas. On 10th August 2017, Theatre Command received information from one of its credible sources that some high value BHT suspects had infiltrated into Pompomari Bye Pass.
“It therefore became expedient to take preemptive action by combing the general area through a cordon and search operations. The operation was successfully conducted as over 30 houses were searched.
One of such included a property which was said to be occupied by United Nations Staff, although the property did not carry a UN designation.
“On the whole, operation in the general area was successfully concluded but no arrest was made because the suspects were not found.
“The command wishes to assure the general public that these operations are being conducted to safeguard lives and properties but not targeted at any individual or group.
The general public is cautioned to avoid peddling rumours which may cause disaffection and to remain law abiding.”
The search of the UN building happened a day after rumours went wild on social media that the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, was being housed in the said building.
A civil society leader in Borno State, Ahmed Shehu, was also at the scene of the incident at the time Premium Times arrived the Red Roof.
He said the civil society would investigate what led to such hostile disposition of soldiers towards the UN.
“We got the information late last night that this place has been surrounded by soldiers, that is why we are here,” he said.
“But whatever may be the soldiers reason, the invasion was not a good indicator for security. Already, people are agitated and are even bearing wrong perception about the humanitarian workers here. This could embolden the IDPs who see the humanitarian workers as their enemies.
“It is even sad to hear that all UN flights coming into Maiduri have been cancelled for today; though it has not been confirmed.”
He said civil society networks will meet with the UN officials and probably come up with a statement later.
Attempts to get across to the spokesperson of the military command and control centre in Borno, Onyema Okechukwu, wasn’t successful as his phone was switched off.
One of the media officials of the UN in Maiduguri, Rabiu Musa, was contacted on phone to confirm the incident. But he said he could not immediately comment on the issue because he was out of town.
He promised to revert as soon as he becomes acquianted with what actually happened.
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com had previously reported that soldiers from 29 Battalion of the 6 Division, who had served in various units of the Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-east, have returned to their main unit, Port Harcourt.
Watch a NAIJ.com TV video below of the Air Force giving an update of its fight against Boko Haram: