Three staff of UNICEF working in Maiduguri have been declared persona non grata by the Nigerian Army over spurious and false allegations on troops of operation Lafiya Dole.
The three persons are: Priscillia Hoveyda, Maher Farea and Milen Kidane. Solacebase learnt that all the affected staff are child protection specialists with UNICEF.
In a statement signed by the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Rogers Nicholas described as unfounded this is an allegation, adding that the allegations are made by enemies of the military and the Nigerian State.
Some of the allegations brought forward were that the Nigerian military has raped over 20 girls in IDP camps in Borno State.
The Theatre Commander regretted that , “It is curious that these allegations were coming at a time the military is at the verge of defeating the menace of Boko Haram Terrorists and bring their criminal activities to a final end”.
Part of the statement reads; “The attention of the Theatre Commander has been drawn to spurious and malicious allegations of human rights violation in Operation LAFIYA DOLE.
“The allegation falsely claimed that the Nigerian military is using children below the age of 18 years in the North East to fight Boko Haram. It also said that some boys being detained in Giwa Barracks are being use to cook, as messengers and porters.
” This is unfortunate that these allegations are not only untrue but also obviously targeted to malign Nigeria and tarnish the good image of our gallant military that has launched a renewed campaign to bring to an end the menace of terrorism in the country.
“The persons who made the allegations have seen that the recent results achieved by the Military in decimating the Boko Haram Terrorists is yielding positive result.
“They are not happy that Nigeria is at the verge of being totally liberated from the scourge of terrorism/insurgency in a very short while,” Gen. Rogers said.
He also noted that the Military has no history and does not employ any under- age person to fight on its behalf or support it in whatever guise.
“The Nigerian Military is a thoroughbred professional organization and upholds the fundamental rights of every citizen including children.
“The Military will not condescend so low to resort to the use of under-age to fight for it. We are an organization that is guided by international best practices in all our undertakings and no amount of blackmail will distract us from our resolve to achieve our mandate of defeating the menace of Boko Haram in the country,” he explained.
Speaking on the allegations of rape by the military, the Theatre Commander said, it is on record that no military personnel works or is deployed inside the IDP Camp within the Theatre of Operations.
“The management and operations of such camps is solely the responsibility of the various NGOs working at such facilities and the para-military organizations that provide security at such camps.
“In a few areas, the military is deployed on the outer perimeter to provide added security to enable workers at the camps to go about their duties without let or hindrance.
“The military personnel deployed in such areas are under strict instructions not to interfere with activities at such camps but are only there to ensure no harm is brought to workers, IDPs or any person authorized to work in the camp.
“It is therefore sad and unfortunate that somebody will sit down somewhere and concoct such false, baseless, unfounded and spurious allegation.
“It is certain that the persons making such allegations are deliberate in their attempts to rubbish the successes achieved so far by the gallant military and will not succeed.
“In recent times, the activities of the Boko Haram Terrorists have been nipped in the bud and their capacity for coordinated operations has been adequately curtailed.
“The end of terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria is at the twilight end and enemies of Nigeria and the military are obviously unhappy at the successes and the efforts so far made by the military in the discharge of their responsibilities in the most professional and patriotic manner.
“We urge the general public to disregard such malicious allegations and continue to support the military to completely rid the country of any act terrorism/insurgency.
“We assure all well meaning Nigerians that their security, safety and dignity are paramount in our collective effort to bring to a conclusive end, the ménace of Boko Haram.
“The military has and will remain professional in the discharge of its mandate and will not be distracted by enemies of the country and its military.
“Consequently upon the foregoing, the following persons working for UNICEF are hereby declared persona non grata in the North East. They are: a. Priscillia Hoveyda. b. Maher Farea. c. Milen Kidane,” Gen. Rogers declared.
In the mean, a senior staff of UNICEF who spoke on condition of anonymity said “UNICEF is not speaking to the press on the matter. We are trying to resolve the problem at our level. The military is a strategic partner of UNICEF and we cannot engage in a media war with them”