Four aid workers with the World Food Programme, WFP, were killed in Borno State yesterday when a United Nations WFP aid convoy was ambushed in northeast Nigeria, a WFP spokeswoman said on Sunday, in the latest attack in the region by Boko Haram.
The WFP is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations, and attacks on aid workers are relatively rare in the conflict with the Islamist insurgency, compared with assaults on the military and civilians in Nigeria’s northeast.
The Boko Haram activities in Borno and neighbouring states have caused about 100,000 deaths since 2009 in its nine (9) years of fighting and have spawned what the United Nations calls one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with 8.5 million people in need of life-saving assistance.
According to the WFP’s Communication Officer at the Maiduguri area office, Adedeji Ademigbuji, four persons were confirmed killed during the attack, two of the four persons killed were the truck driver and his assistant.
“WFP can confirm that a convoy escorted by the Nigerian military including WFP hired trucks was the subject of an attack by armed groups 35km southwest of Ngala in Borno State on Saturday (16 December)”, said Mr Ademigbuji.
“Four people, including the driver of a WFP-hired truck and a driver’s assistant, were killed in the incident. WFP extends its condolences to the bereaved families.
“WFP is working with the authorities to determine the whereabouts of the trucks,” he said.
However, sources familiar with the attack confirmed to this medium that three other persons were taken away by the gunmen who drove the food trucks to an unknown destination. The spokesperson declined to comment on whether the driver and assistant were WFP staff, or give details about the other two people killed. The WFP spokesperson also failed to neither acknowledge nor confirm the alleged abduction of three other persons.
The military is yet to issue a statement on this incident.
Last year, the United Nations suspended aid deliveries in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, the epicenter of the conflict, after a humanitarian convoy was attacked, leaving two aid workers injured.
Last week, the Nigerian government approved the release of $1 billion from the country’s excess oil account to the government to help fight the Boko Haram insurgency, despite a two-year narrative that Boko Haram has been all but defeated.
There are other signs the government and military may be abandoning that narrative.
Nigeria’s long-term plan is now to corral civilians inside fortified garrison towns – effectively ceding the countryside to Boko Haram.
Earlier this month, Nigeria replaced the military commander of the campaign against Boko Haram after half a year in the post. Military sources told Reuters that came after a series of “embarrassing” attacks by the Islamists.