MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — The governor of Nigeria’s embattled Borno state has apologized to the United Nations, saying his accusations that aid agencies are profiting from funds for people fleeing Boko Haram were aimed at local charities.
“Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, we are grateful to the United Nations for all it has been doing toward rehabilitation and resettlement of our displaced people,” Gov. Kashim Shettima said.
He spoke Thursday as senior U.N. officials including Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon flew to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, to meet with him to discuss his damaging comments.
Shettima on Tuesday told state legislators that only eight of 126 registered aid agencies were doing good work, including the U.N. World Food Program and Population Fund. He criticized UNICEF, among others, though he included the children’s agency on that list of praiseworthy groups.
The others, he said, “we should drive them out of” Maiduguri.
Shettima claimed his allegations were misrepresented by journalists, and indicated some might have been a joke.That included a comment that U.N. workers might build five toilets in an outlying town and then take seven helicopter rides to check on them.
Despite the apology, there’s no doubt that Shettima was criticizing U.N. agencies.
He said, for example, “a lot of the U.N. agencies, we hardly know what they are doing. We see them driving in very flashy white vehicles but … hardly see them on the ground.”
He also accused UNICEF of misusing funds by buying bullet-proof vehicles. One such vehicle saved lives in July when Boko Haram extremists attacked a military-escorted humanitarian convoy, wounding a UNICEF worker, two other aid workers and two soldiers.
Shettima says now that “my anger was largely (aimed) at indigenous NGOs” who aim “to defraud donors.”