Abuja, March 3, 2021 – The international NGO community strongly condemns the attacks on civilians and aid workers during the attacks by Non-State Armed Groups (NSAG) on 01/03/2021 and 02/03/2021 on Dikwa town, in Borno state. We are saddened by the loss of lives, the repeated displacement of population, and the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure and critical aid facilities.
The Nigeria INGO Forum expresses its condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wishes fast recovery to those who were injured.
On March 1 and 2, NSAGs attacked the town of Dikwa. During the attack, at least six civilians lost their lives in crossfire, several others were injured and are still missing, and thousands of people tried to flee the town in the aftermaths of the attack. Dikwa is a congestion hotspot. According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), out of an estimated population of 114,000 people there, more than 75,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Many of those IDPs have already been subjected to multiple displacement, including the over 3,000 IDPs who, only two weeks ago, fled Marte (to which they had been relocated in December) to due to another attack.
In the more than a decade-long armed conflict in the north-east Nigeria, civilians continue to suffer from its devastating consequences and to pay the price for the blatant violations of international law that provides for their protection.
The Dikwa hospital was set on fire, in violation of international humanitarian law provisions for the protection of civilian infrastruture. This raises additional concerns about the full scale of the attack’s impact on civilians, which is still being assessed.
Concerningly, the attack by NSAGs also directly targeted humanitarian facilities. Today, more than 8.7 million people require humanitarian assistance in north-east Nigeria and humanitarian actors work around the clock in a highly insecure environment to provide life-saving assistance. The Nigeria INGO Forum is horrified and saddened that these attacks would cut-off a very vulnerable population from the much-needed life-saving support provided by aid workers. OCHA estimates that 100,000 people were receiving humanitarian assistance in Dikwa alone. It is regrettable and unacceptable that aid workers offering these life-saving assistances are also increasingly becoming direct targets.
The Nigeria INGO Forum and its 54 members strongly urge all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, and to take all appropriate measures to ensure the protection of civilians, civilian infrastructure, and aid workers. We also call for unhindered access of humanitarian actors to all the people in need of assistance, as per international humanitarian law obligations: humanitarian workers are not a target.