The Nigerian military this month closed regional offices of two humanitarian agencies in the northeast – Action Against Hunger and Mercy Corps – accusing AAH of supplying Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) with “food and drugs”. Mercy Corps said it hadn’t been given any explanation. Both agencies stressed their humanitarian credentials. A week after the closure, AAH announced that a kidnapped staff member – one of six health workers and drivers abducted by ISWAP in July – had been killed by the jihadists, underlining the danger of the agency’s work. The Nigerian military’s sharpened focus on NGOs comes against a backdrop of serious battlefield reversals. It has now adopted a “super camp” strategy in which the army has largely withdrawn from the countryside to concentrate its forces in a small number of key towns. That has denied aid agencies access to the civilian population left behind. Rather than head to the bases to seek the army’s protection and humanitarian help, civilians in the countryside have preferred to stay put.

TNH

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