Nigeria has temporarily lifted a suspension of the operations of two aid groups, Mercy Corps and Action Against Hunger, in the country’s northeast, the minister of humanitarian affairs said. The army forced both groups to close some of their offices in September, accusing Action Against Hunger of aiding terrorist groups and alleging that a large amount of money in a car found in north-eastern Borno state belonged to Mercy Corps.
Mercy Corps country director Darius Radcliffe issued a statement on Thursday welcoming the government’s decision, announced on Wednesday evening, and saying the group would resume work as quickly as possible.
“After nearly five weeks without support, the vulnerable populations that we serve cannot afford to wait any longer.”
Action Against Hunger did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But it has previously rejected the accusation of “aiding and abetting” a terrorist organisation, an allusion to an Islamist insurgency in the northeast.
Humanitarian Affairs Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq told a news conference in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri that the concerns raised by the army would “continue to receive attention and scrutiny,” and that the government would take new steps to vet and monitor all humanitarian groups working in the region.
The measures will include requiring non-governmental organisations to register and be vetted by the government before they can start work, and to submit monthly reports that include the amount and source of their fund-raising and the number of people they assist.
New rules will also dictate where NGOs purchase fuel and other “sensitive” items and how they can transfer cash.
A decade-long insurgency by militant group Boko Haram has terrorised the northeast, killing some 30 000 people and forcing two million to flee their homes. In 2016, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) split off from Boko Haram and has launched its own attacks in the region.
The United Nations has described the situation in Nigeria’s northeast as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, estimating that 7.1 million people need assistance.