Nigeria lifts aid groups’ suspension


Nigeria temporarily lifted a suspension of the operations of two aid groups, Mercy Corps and Action Against Hunger, in the country’s north-east.

The army forced both groups to close offices in September, accusing Action Against Hunger of aiding terrorist groups and alleging money in a car in Borno state belonged to Mercy Corps.

Mercy Corps country director Darius Radcliffe welcomed the decision, announced on Wednesday evening by the minister of humanitarian affairs and said the group would resume work as quickly as possible: “After nearly five weeks without support, the vulnerable populations we serve cannot wait any longer.”

Action Against Hunger thanked the ministry, the humanitarian community and donors for their assistance in having the suspension lifted and said it was time for communities they serve to get the “lifesaving assistance they have not been able to access for the last six weeks”.

It previously rejected the accusation of aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation – an allusion to the Islamist insurgency in the north-east.

Humanitarian Affairs Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq told a news conference in Abuja concerns raised by the army would “continue to receive attention and scrutiny” and government would take steps to vet and monitor all humanitarian groups working in the region.

The measures will include requiring non-governmental organisations to register and be vetted by government before they start work and to submit monthly reports including the amount and sources of fundraising and the number of people they assist.

New rules will also dictate where NGOs purchase fuel and other “sensitive” items and how they can transfer cash.

A decade-long insurgency by Boko Haram caused the deaths of some 30 000 people and drove two million from their homes. In 2016, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) split from Boko Haram; it launched its own attacks in the region.

The United Nations described the situation in Nigeria’s north-east as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, estimating 7.1 million people need assistance.