The Nigerian government today invited the London Telegraph to visit the country and educate itself about local realities, suggesting it is sitting in a far-away newsroom to manufacture fiction.
In a statement signed by presidential spokesman Garba Shehu, the government said the newspaper’s August 30 story, “Children Face Death by Starvation in Northern Nigeria” merely repeated a claim from an earlier one on April 12 headed, “Nigeria Using UK Aid to Persecute President’s Political Foes.”
In it, the newspaper had alleged that Nigeria was diverting UK aid monies away from defeating the Islamist terror group Boko Haram towards those it identified as political opponents of the Administration, and the government dismissed it as being “as incorrect as it is unhelpful.”
Pointing out that claims in both articles were attributed to an unnamed “source” in the United States, and “Western officials,” the government recalled that when the first article was published, “it drew the condemnation of the US Embassy in Abuja as having drawn conclusions directly opposite to the position of the US government.”
It pointed out that the UK government does not give development aid to the Nigerian administration for use in military operations against Boko Haram.
“Where British military support – such as intelligence – is provided, it is precisely and only, given for operations directly against Boko Haram,” the government said. “Similarly, the Nigerian Government is in no position to divert aid monies used for emergency relief for refugees or IDP camps for any other purpose, as these are dispensed directly by DFID, USAID, the United Nations, the International Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and many other organizations – with which we enjoy excellent relations.”
Affirming that the humanitarian challenge in the IDP camps is real, the government said it remained deeply concerned about the medical, health and nutrition challenges, and is doing everything with the limited resources at its disposal to improve the situation.
“However, the blame for the plight of refugees lies with Boko Haram,” it stated. “They are its cause, not the Nigerian Government.”
It expressed regret concerning last week’s attack on the UN humanitarian convoy in the Northeastern region, saying the government is encouraged by the world body’s determination to continue rendering assistance to the displaced victims. “That the attack was repelled by Nigerian troops escorting the convoy shows precisely how the Government and humanitarian agencies are working together,” it said.
It dismissed claims that the Administration is targeting Christians and the opposition, saying they are without foundation. “Since assuming office, President Buhari has treated all Nigerians without bias for ethnicity or religion – as the composition of his cabinet and the policies and programmes of his Administration demonstrate.”
According to the statement, to suggest that Buhari’s government as deepening Muslim-Christian division is not only untrue, but plays into the hands of Boko Haram who wish to divide Nigerians along religious lines, and fighting that militant group is a key priority of the administration. The international community, it continued, has widely acknowledged President Buhari’s determination to defeat terrorism in Nigeria and the entire Lake Chad Basin.
“There is nothing to gain by attempting to mould public opinion against these facts,” the government statement added. “Therefore we invite The Telegraph to visit Nigeria: to witness first hand not only the challenges we face, but the Administration’s determination to confront them.”