The United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, says the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East has displaced two million people, stressing that should Nigeria seek its support in the fight against Boko Haram, Britain would be ready to offer assistance.
He said a perceived rift between the Nigerian Army and the local populace in the North-east is fueling violence in the region, reiterating that the British government would be willing to support the military fight insurgency, only “if the authorities ask for help.”
He gave the latest assurance while on a visit to Maiduguri as part of his Africa tour seeking ‘new UK partnerships’ across Africa, The Guardian, (UK) reports.
“I am here in Maiduguri North-east Nigeria, where the conflict which has involved both Boko Haram and Islamic state West Africa has meant that two million people have been displaced living in, effectively, refugee camps.
“And the U.K is supporting the World Food Programme (WFP) which is doing an extraordinary job. We have given £150 million since the start of the conflict and they have been able to feed 1.5 million people as a result of their activities here.
“I think the crucial deciding factor is the willingness and enthusiasm of the Nigerian government and the Nigerian army to work closely with us – we would like to support and help them, but they are a sovereign nation and they have got to want our help,” Hunt reportedly said.
The British envoy also accused the military of moving the locals into towns “and assuming the ones that are not in a secure area are members of Boko Haram.”
He said while the approach is understandable, “the effect means depriving the indigenes of their livelihood and homes.”
“The feedback I got from NGOs on the ground is that lack of trust between the authorities and local people is one of the things that is fuelling the problem at the moment.
“The Nigerian army strategy is largely about herding people into towns and saying if you are not in a secure area, we are going to assume you are Boko Haram and/or Islamic State west Africa,” he added.
The foreign secretary, while on the North-East visit, also reaffirmed the UK government’s commitment to fighting Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa.
“The conflict here involving Boko Haram and Islamic State has displaced two million people. UK support for the World Food Programme has helped feed 1.5 million, but, we are also focusing on long term solutions to improving livelihoods and opportunity,” he said.
The UK has also agreed to help Nigeria with non-oil exports by increasing the air freight capacity of British Airways, its national carrier – provided the efficiency of Nigeria’s international airports increases.