There was a mild drama Monday night at the headquarters of Joint Task Force (North East), Operation Hadin Kai, Maiduguri, as representatives of foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) shunned journalists’ enquiries on their exit plans from the conflict-prone areas following the gradual return of peace.
A team of investigative journalists from Abuja, including Daily Trust’s Defence Correspondent, were on a fact-finding mission to the North East zone of the country to investigate the activities of the military and NGOs, particularly alleged maltreatment of women and children in the areas.
The journalists had scheduled separate meetings with the representatives of both establishments in order to get their official reactions to their findings, especially on terrorism financing, and managing internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps, among others.
Our correspondent reports that no fewer than 243 local and foreign NGOs are currently operating in the zone which includes Borno, Adamawa and Gombe states providing food, health, shelter and other necessary things for the victims of insurgency.
Findings by Daily Trust revealed that some of the NGOs had booked rooms in different hotels for at least 5 to 10 years.
“Some of our customers who have booked to stay here for up to 5 years to 10 years are majorly foreigners. I noticed the majority of them are on humanitarian assignments,” an official of one of the hotels told our correspondent.
However, the drama began at the venue of the meeting at about 6pm when the deputy head of OCHA, Ms Esty Sutyoko, halted the introduction of participants at the meeting, describing it as “unnecessary”.
When some questions were raised about the exit plans of NGOs, Ms Sutyoko mounted the podium, deviated from the main question and announced ongoing 16-day gender activism against women, saying it was imperative for the journalists to participate actively.
When another question was directed to the officials of the World Health Organisation, the two representatives quietly left the gathering without offering any explanation.
But the head of civil-military coordinator, OCHA, Mr Brian Laguardia, who spoke on their behalf, simply explained that they “are collaborating with the Nigerian government to bring succour to the victims” without giving further details.
Earlier in the day, Daily Trust approached an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the Joint Investigation Centre located at Giwa Barracks, to state how her organisation has been helpful but declined the request.
The federal government had earlier said foreign NGOs, banks, financial technology firms and Point of Sale terminal operators have been linked to terrorism financing in the country.
It specifically identified the affected NGOs to include those operating in terror-prone areas and engaged in humanitarian activities, service provision and faith-based activities.
These were contained in the 2022 National Inherent Risk Assessment of Terrorism Financing in Nigeria report.