Two workers with the United Nations aid agencies are currently languishing in the camp of the Boko Haram insurgents as the Nigerian government and the abductees’ host organisations have vowed not to pay ransom for their release or start a negotiation with the terrorists.
SaharaReporters learnt that the humanitarian workers have life insurance and the agencies would rather pay insurance claims to their families than save them from Boko Haram through ransom negotiations.
A top source added that the Nigerian government, which itself still has several highly priced abductees with Boko Haram, has asked the agencies to secure the release of their workers – although they are Nigerians.
One of them is Garba Idris, a staff member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who was abducted on Saturday, January 2 along the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road, in Borno State.
The second humanitarian worker in captivity is yet to be identified.
The insurgents had attacked some commuters near Matari village between Minok to Jakana road on the said day before picking Idris.
The terrorists had also ambushed vehicles conveying commuters near Matari village between Minok to Jakana highway, and the Boko Haram fighters held Idris, aka Alooma, a Senior Protection Assistant with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, during the attack.
A source said the terrorists, clad in military uniform, had placed a roadblock with three Hilux pickup trucks and motorcycles.
“Witnesses said while searching the passengers, Idris attempted to throw away his Identity card but one of the insurgents sighted him. He was then asked to step down from the vehicle along with two others. The rest were allowed to continue the journey.
“The other two passengers were later released on the ground that they are very poor people and of no use”, the source had disclosed.
Unconfirmed reports stated that the terrorists also abducted scores of the passengers on that journey.
Speaking with SaharaReporters on Monday, a top UN official confirmed that two staff members had been with the Boko Haram insurgents but there is no payment of ransom and no negotiation, which are both in line with the standard rules of operation of the organisations.
He said, “They (the Boko Haram) typically don’t release aid workers without collecting ransom which only the government can pay as aid agencies on principle don’t. So they make a spectacle of it by executing and releasing the video.
“So that Damaturu-Maiduguri Road had been closed to all UN staff since November when the situation escalated but the two aid workers abducted were on personal travels when armed fighters stopped their vehicles and identified them during search.
“The government feels they are aid workers and the aid agencies should pay the ransom and not the government. Recall that the International Committee of the Red Cross helped the government to negotiate the Chibok girls’ release. But the government dropped the money.
“So when the ICRC staff members were abducted and the government was asked to step it, they told ICRC to use their connection to free their staff. ICRC didn’t pay and the woman was killed.”