Yesterday suicide bombers killed at least twelve people in the North-East of Nigeria. On the same day, a Canadian and an America citizen were kidnapped in Nigeria, and two policemen got killed in the exchange of gunfire with the kidnappers. "It is a sad reminder of how volatile the security situation in the country still is, and how crucial it is to address this situation to unleash Nigeria's immense potential," Commissioner Vella said on 18 January in a discussion with MEPs. The EU supports both politically and financially the Multinational Joint Task Force which brings together Niger, Chad and Cameroon in a counter offensive against Boko Harram and has already mobilised over EUR 155 million to address the humanitarian crisis and an additional EUR 50 million for development in North Eastern Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, noted the Commissioner.
"We, as the European Union, are investing strongly to help the people of Nigeria to bring their country forward. We invest in innovation, for instance with the Digital4Development initiative, in energy efficiency, in local entrepreneurship, in the green economy and the fight against climate change. The European Investment Bank is about to increase its portfolio in the country," added Vella.
In seven years of conflict in north-eastern Nigeria, over 20 000 people have been killed and 1.82 million displaced. The humanitarian situation remains dramatic and the high level of insecurity across the area continues to seriously hamper access and the delivery of assistance.
In 2014, around 270 schoolgirls were abducted from a school in Chibok, north-east Nigeria by Boko Haram. Most were probably forced to either marry insurgents or to become insurgents themselves, subjected to sexual violence or sold into slavery, and non-Muslim girls were forced to convert to Islam.
Over 80 girls kidnapped by Boko Harm were finally released in May 2017. Upon their release, High Representative Federica Mogherini, said that ‘the EU continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria in its fight against terrorism and in its tireless work to free the girls. The EU also continues to be fully committed to supporting humanitarian, development and reconstruction work in Nigeria.’
The EU provides immediate assistance to cover the basic needs of those internally displaced, host populations in Nigeria as well as refugees in other countries affected by the Lake Chad basin crisis, namely Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Funds go to food distributions, to clinics providing lifesaving nutrition medical care, as well as to ensure access to water and sanitation, hygiene, first-need items, shelter and protection. They also contribute to increased access, through the Humanitarian Air Service, and to the coordination of humanitarian organisations.
In addition to the conflict in the North-East, there are other violent conflicts in Nigeria, including in the South-East (Biafra) and the oil-rich Niger Delta. Clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the so-called Middle belt have caused hundreds of deaths. While the herders are mainly Muslim and the farmers mainly Christian, the conflict reflects as much the limited access to land fuelled by climate change and demographic growth. There is however concern that the conflicts can turn more religious with time, with dire potential consequences.
The upcoming elections in February 2019 will likely add to the complexity. The EU regularly sends Election Observation Missions to Nigeria.
The Commissioner noted that EU High Representative Federica Mogherini hopes to visit Nigeria again in the near future for the next Ministerial dialogue, to raise the EU's concerns and to push cooperation forward.
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