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Why Nigerian Army closed Mercy Corps offices

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The Nigerian army closed the offices of another aid group Mercy Corps after troops said they found a large sum of money allegedly belonging to the agency, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

Reuters reported that a military source and an aid worker at the organisation said army found N29 million ($94,771) in cash being transported in the northeastern state of Borno by a driver who said the money belonged to Mercy Corps.

The army is yet to formally state its reasons for the shut-down, however, Mercy Corps has suspended its operations in two states – Yobe and Borno. The aid agency said the army has not given it the reasons its offices were shut down.

“Mercy Corps is suspending operations in Borno and Yobe States, Nigeria, following the closure of four of our field offices by the Nigerian military,” said Amy Fairbairn, its head of media and communications, in a statement.

“We have not yet received an official reason from the Nigerian authorities for the closure and we are seeking to work with them to resolve this as soon as possible,” said Fairbairn, adding that Mercy Corps’ work in other parts of Nigeria would continue uninterrupted.

Mercy Corps is the second international aid group, after Action Action Hunger, to be shut down this month by the Nigerian army. The army says Action Against Hunger has been supplying terrorists with food and drugs and declared the agency “persona non grata”.

A researcher at the French National Centre for Science Research Vincent Foucher said the closure of the aid groups offices is not”a good signal” in the face of the humanitarian crisis in the northeast.

“This is not a good signal, because humanitarian needs are very acute in the north east,” Foucher told The Guardian, adding that Mercy Corps had done “some groundbreaking work, funding research based on interviews with former Boko Haram militants.”

Foucher said the closure of aid groups by the troops might be “renewed attempts by the Army these last months to hurt ISWAP and Boko Haram’s war economy.”

Action Against Hunger, whose offices were closed earlier in September, suffered another loss this week as one of its staff abducted in July in Borno by Islamic State West African Province fighters was executed by the insurgents.

“The armed group holding captive an employee of Action Against Hunger (ACF), two drivers and three health ministry personnel, have executed a hostage,” the Paris-based organisation said in a statement.

Action Against Hunger condemns in the strongest terms this assassination and urgently calls for the release of the hostages,” it said, without giving details of the identity of the victim.

The charity said it was “extremely concerned and is fully mobilised to ensure that the remaining hostages can be quickly and safely reunited with their families”

Boko Haram’s decade campaign of terror has left more than 30,000 people dead with more than two million people displaced, hence, a network of NGOs is assisting the government in helping those who have been injured in attacks and have been forced from their homes.

In 2018, the military accused the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, of spying for the militants. It banned the organisation, which denied the allegations, but hours later lifted the ban.

Mercy Corps said it is looking forward to a quick resolution of the issue that led to the closure of its offices so it can “resume our programs that bring much-needed relief to the people of Nigeria.”


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