U.N. relationship with Nigeria ‘intact’ despite army raid

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United Nations Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator Peter Lundberg gestures as he speaks during an interview with Reuters in his office in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria June 6, 2017.

United Nations’ relationship with Nigeria is intact, a U.N. official said on Saturday, despite a military raid on a compound belonging to the international body in the conflict-ridden northeast.

“I am very pleased to report that our relationship of collaboration and trust is intact,” Peter Lundberg, the U.N. deputy humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, said at a briefing in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.

Friday’s raid had threatened to undermine an already-rocky relationship between Nigeria’s military and the United Nations and other aid organizations.

The army said it was a search for members of Islamist insurgency Boko Haram in Maiduguri, the epicenter of the fight against the militants, in an area of the city that included the U.N. compound.

The army and United Nations still disagree over whether the compound was registered and designated as belonging to the U.N.

A worsening of relations between the U.N. and Nigeria could risk destabilizing efforts to deliver aid to almost seven million people affected by the eight-year conflict with Boko Haram, one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world.

The United Nations on Friday had halted various operations around the northeast, but following reassurances from Nigeria those resumed on Saturday, said Lundberg.

The insurgency has driven at least two million people from their homes, left tens of thousands on the brink of famine and millions more without secure access to food.

“We are here in support of the government of Nigeria, the United Nations agencies and over 60 non-government organizations,” said Lundberg.

In a separate statement, Ibrahim Attahiru, a commander of Nigeria’s operations against Boko Haram, said the army was not trying to block the United Nations’ activities.

“We will continue to collaborate with the United Nations humanitarian agencies to achieve the goals of the counter-insurgency campaign and other developments to address the humanitarian crisis in the northeast region,” he said.

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