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Army lifts controversial three-month suspension on UNICEF hours after announcing it

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JUST hours after announcing a three-month ban on the activities of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in the North East, the Nigerian military authorities have lifted the controversial suspension.

Onyema Nwachukwu, the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, issued a statement on Friday, accusing UNICEF of spying on military formations and thus jeopardising its operations against Boko Haram.

“The Theatre Command Operation LAFIYA DOLE is suspending the operations of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in the North East theatre until further notice,” the statement read.

“This has become inevitable since the organisation has abdicated its primary duty of catering for the wellbeing of children and the vulnerable through humanitarian activities and now engaged in training selected persons for clandestine activities to continue sabotaging the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts of troops through spurious and unconfirmed allegations bothering on alleged violations of human rights by the military.

“Information within the reach of this Command specifically indicates that the organisation commenced the said training on Wednesday 12 December 2018 at the Ministry of Finance Conference Hall, Musa Usman Secretariat, Maiduguri and ended on Thursday, 13 December 2018. The Theatre command will not tolerate this kind of sabotage from any individual, group of persons or organisation.”

Later on Friday, a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, issued a statement saying that the commander of Operations Lafiya Dole will have a meeting with UNICEF tomorrow “to resolve the issues of concern regarding some of the actions of UN agency”.

But the army issued another statement saying that the suspension has been lifted after “extensive deliberations” between leaders of the army and UNICEF representatives.

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“During the meeting, the Theatre Command admonished the representatives of the organization to desist from activities inimical to Nigeria’s national security and capable of undermining ongoing fight against terrorism and insurgency,” Nwachukwu stated.

“The Command also urged UNICEF representatives to ensure they share information with relevant authorities whenever induction or training of new staff is being conducted in the theatre.

“Consequently, 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 activities in North Eastern Nigeria.”

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