UN: Nigeria’s Boko Haram ‘increasingly monstrous’

A boy searches the ground next to a burnt-out vehicle, caused by an attack by Boko Haram militants in Bama, Borno State, February 20, 2014

ABUJA — The U.N. says nearly 500,000 people in northern Nigeria have fled their homes in fear of what it calls an “increasingly monstrous” insurgency that threatens food security in many parts of the country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who visited Nigeria this week, warned that what was formerly an internal conflict has become a regional crisis. The insurgency in northeastern Nigeria has “spilled across borders” into neighboring West African countries along with nearly 60,000 refugees, Pillay said.

“With thousands of refugees fleeing from Nigeria, and arms and fighters reportedly flowing across international borders in the other direction, this terrible conflict is no longer solely an internal matter,” she said…

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My theory: they got arms from Libya after Gadhafi was killed.

The IRIN (humanitarian news) agency also a more detailed description of the problem. Excerpts:

Humanitarian needs are mounting in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram attacks have displaced 350,000 people since 2013, 290,000 of them internally; the rest are sheltering in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. But the national response is inadequate and the international response minimal due to access hurdles and political sensitivities…

Insecurity dampens humanitarian response

According to OCHA, a dozen or so NGOs have a presence in the northeast, but only the Nigerian Red Cross is responding to the needs of the displaced, alongside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN Population Fund, and government departments NEMA and SEMA (State Emergency Management Agency)…

Pattern of attacks

Boko Haram attackers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and Kalashnikovs, enter villages, loot their grain supplies and then burn them down, according to multiple IDP accounts…

Food security fears

Officials are concerned about food security and the impact of displacement on the upcoming harvest. “There is bound to be a problem this crop season because thousands of people have fled their homes and their farms which they will hardly go back to cultivate for fear of BH attack,” said an unnamed official in the Borno State ministry of agriculture.

Food stocks of host villagers are dwindling with the surge in IDPs. “Many villagers have exhausted their food which they shared with the IDPs and have turned to eating the grains they reserved as seedlings for the impending rainy season,” government official Ularamu warned.

In the 2013 rainy season 5,000 hectares of wheat and rice were left to rot in the fertile Marte area along Lake Chad when 19,000 farmers fled their farms for fear of BH attacks, according to Borno State commissioner for agriculture Usman Zannah.

The shores of Lake Chad have traditionally served as a food basket for the northeast, but BH violence has driven more than 60 percent of the farmers away, according to NEMA.

And now more are fleeing the area as the violence intensifies. On 16 February Doron Baga, a fishing and farming village along Lake Chad, was burnt and several residents shot dead or drowned in a frantic bid to escape.

“They burnt the whole village including our fishing and farming tools. People are leaving the area in droves because of fear that their village could be targeted next,” Doron Baga resident Babagana Goni told IRIN from Maiduguri.