Nigerian Army lifts suspension on UNICEF in northeast

Nigerian troops Nigerian Army

The Nigerian Army on Friday said it had lifted a suspension of UNICEF activities in the northeast, hours after it accused the UN agency’s staff of spying for Islamist militants in the restive region.

Earlier on Friday, the Nigerian military said UNICEF had been training people to sabotage troops’ counter-insurgency efforts by uncovering alleged human rights abuses by the military.

It said in a statement that UNICEF staff “train and deploy spies who support the insurgents and their sympathisers”.

These were “unwholesome practices that could further jeopardise the fight against terrorism and insurgency”, it said, adding that UNICEF’s operations were being suspended in the northeast until further notice.

But in a second statement hours later, the military said it held an emergency meeting with UNICEF representatives late on Friday following intervention by well-meaning and concerned Nigerians.

“After extensive deliberations on the need to seek modalities to work harmoniously with the security agencies in the theatre of operation, the Theatre Command has henceforth lifted the three months suspension earlier imposed on UNICEF,” the military said in its second statement.

In its second statement, the military said during the meeting it urged “UNICEF representatives to ensure they share information with relevant authorities whenever induction or training of new staff is being conducted in the theatre”.

Earlier, after the allegation and suspension, a UNICEF spokeswoman said the organisation was “verifying the information”.