The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, yesterday expressed "grave concern" over "unauthorized search" by security forces on a UN base for humanitarian workers in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
Kallon expressed displeasure over the search, according to a statement issued in Maiduguri to journalists yesterday by the Head of Communications, Samantha Newports.
But the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) denied news that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole invaded the United Nations (UN) house in Maiduguri, saying the report is not true
A statement signed late yesterday by Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. John Enenche, in Abuja, said the operation was only a cordon and search operation conducted in that general area in line with the re-invigorated effort of the military on counter-terrorism operations in the northeast as a whole.
Enenche added that the house being referred to as UN building was an unmarked accommodation without any sign that it was occupied by the world body, adding that the search operation was conducted peacefully at the premises, when the troops were allowed into it, just like other buildings.
He insisted that the relationship between the Nigerian military and the UN has been cordial, aimed at working towards a more secured world in general and Nigeria in particular, which will be sustained and everything would be done by the Nigerian military to ensure that the UN activities and interests are given adequate protection and encouragement.
He urged the public to disregard the information that the UN building in Maiduguri was raided by troops.
As part of the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the northeast, the Nigerian Army said it conducted cordon and search operation at a building, following an alert that some high profile Boko Haram members were living there.
A statement signed by the spokesman of the 7 Division and Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole, Lt. Col Kingsley Samuel, said the Army had intensified cordon and search operations in Maiduguri and its environs to clear the remnants of Boko Haram insurgents.
The statement reads: "On August 10, this year, 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 building included a property, which was said to be occupied by UN 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 statement said.
Samuel added that troops under the Operation Lafiya Dole had been conducting several clearance and cordon and search operations in urban and rural areas within the Theatre, adding that the clearance operation efforts had yielded significant successes in the past weeks.
According to him, the operation had forced the Boko Haram insurgents to change tactics and resort to suicide bombing, targeting military locations and the populace.
He, however, noted that the operation was necessitated by the need to intensify cordon and search operation in Maiduguri metropolis and its environs, listing other areas affected by the operation as Jiddari-Polo, Muna Garage, Jakana, among others.
"The Command wishes to assure the general public that the operations are being conducted to safeguard lives and property, but not targeted at any individual or group."
He warned against peddling of rumours that could cause disaffection among the various ethnic and religious groups of people in the state.
According to Kallon: "At circa 0500 hours today (yesterday), members of the
Nigerian security forces entered the UN base for humanitarian workers in Maiduguri without authorisation.
"The security forces carried out a search of the tented camp and left the area at circa 0800 hours.
"The UNs does not have any information at this time regarding the reason or motivations for the unauthorised search. The Humanitarian Coordinator is working closely with the Government of Nigeria to resolve this issue.
"The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria's northeast is one of the most severe in the world today."
He cautioned that such actions could be detrimental to the critical work being carried out on a daily basis to support the vulnerable in the region and called on the Federal Government to promptly provide clarifications on the matter.
The UN and other 50 non-governmental humanitarian organisations are working in support of the Nigerian government to provide aid, including food, safe water and medicine, to over 6.9 million people in need in the region.