By Abdulkareem Haruna
In a video clip released on Wednesday, the six humanitarian workers and staff of Action Against Hunger (ACF) who were abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents last week, have begged the Nigerian government “to do something” about their release.
The three minutes and 17 seconds video featured a veiled female nurse who identified herself as Grace speaking on behalf of five other abducted men sitting behind her.
ACF has issued a statement confirming the six persons shown in the video as their staff. And the ACF has also confirmed that the six from their looks in the video are in good condition of health.
The six were seen in the video sitting in front of what looked like a white tent with UNHCR inscription on it.
Grace, who spoke in English, said she and her colleagues do not know the location of where they were being held.
But she said they were staff of ACF who were based in Damasak, the headquarters of Mobbar, a local government area bordering Niger Republic.
Ms Grace, who seemed to have been primed by her abductors whom she identified as “army of the Khalifa” spoke directly to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) telling them that she is “the only Christian” amongst the abductees, a statement that suggested that she is the most vulnerable among the six abductees.
She also begged the Nigerian government to act fast to secure their release to avoid herself and the others from suffering the same fate that befell the abducted humanitarian workers working for the Red Cross whom she said “were killed” because the Nigerian government did not act.
Ms Grace, who was struggling to hold back tears, also revealed towards the end of the video that Leah Sharibu and one other abducted female “Alice” were not released and “they were killed” because the Nigerian government did not do something.
The full transcription of the video reads:
“My name is Grace, I work with Action Against Hunger an NGO in Borno state. My base is Damasak. We went to work on Thursday the 18th of July 2019 outside Damasak.
“On our way going back to Damasak, by Kinnari Chamba ward in Damasak we were caught by this army called the Khalifa. They brought us here and actually we don’t know where we are. But this minute, this moment I want to beg on my Christian Association of Nigeria because I am the only Christian amongst six of us here.
“I want to beg that CAN should do something about me to see how I can be released. I also want to beg Action Against Hunger in Borno State that we are six here and all of us are staffs, we went to work on our way coming back to our base that was when we were caught. I beg Action Against Hunger to know that we have families, some of us have children and I am begging Action Against Hunger that they should do something to release us.
“I also want to call on Nigeria that we are Nigerians; we are also working for Nigeria . I beg that the Nigerian government should please, and please, I am begging; do something to see that we are released because this has occurred before to this organisation, RED CROSS where some ladies were caught, Hauwa and Kabura there were told to ask to be released but because Nigeria did not act they were killed.
“I am begging on behalf of all of us here that please Nigeria should not allow such to happen to us. And it also happen again with Leah and Alice – because Nigeria could not do anything about them they were not release; they were also killed. I beg that Nigeria and our organisation Action Against Hunger should do something and see that we are released. Thank you.”
Action Against Hunger reacts
The ACF has since reacted to the video saying that the six persons are their staffers working in Damasak in northern part of Borno state.
The statement reads:
“A video released on Wednesday, July 24 in the evening shows the female Action Against Hunger staff member alongside five companions (drivers and health workers engaged in a humanitarian program run by Action Against Hunger in Damasak region, Borno State) apparently in good health condition.
“Action Against Hunger strongly requests that our staff member and her companions be released.
“They are humanitarians and health workers and they chose to dedicate their lives to support the most vulnerable communities in Nigeria. They were only in pursuit of solidarity, humanity and neutrality.
“Their abduction fully contradicts International Humanitarian Law and internationally recognized standards for the protection of humanitarian workers and organizations.
“All Action Against Hunger teams and staff express their full support and comfort to our colleague and to her companions who are being detained, as well as to their families and friends.
Notice to the media:
“Action Against Hunger will not make any comments or give any feedback to media queries related to this subject except through formal and written statement.
“Action Against Hunger acknowledges the media for their understanding in the treatment of this difficult situation.
“On Thursday 18 July, 2019, a convoy of vehicles was attacked on the road to Damasak, Borno state, Nigeria.
“One of the drivers was killed, while one Action Against Hunger staff member, two of the drivers and three health workers are missing.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident as these are colleagues dedicated to providing life-saving assistance to individuals and families affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the north east of Nigeria. We are very concerned and want to ensure that they are safe and can be reunited with their families.
“Action Against Hunger strives to ensure that millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance in north east Nigeria receive the essential services required for their survival, especially women and children.
“We express our deepest condolences to the family of our driver and we extend our support to the family of our missing colleagues as well as others affected by this incident.
“We appeal to the media and the public to desist from circulating unverified information about the situation above.”