The presidency has accused the UK Telegraph of “strengthening” Boko Haram insurgency in the country.
The accusation of the presidency followed a report of the newspaper on the condition of internally displaced children in the northeast of the country.
In the report, the London-based newspaper said 50,000 children in the northeast faced death by starvation “as a result of the Nigerian government’s faltering campaign to defeat Boko Haram Islamist militants”.
But in a statement on Monday titled “Again, London Telegraph is strengthening Boko Haram terrorism”, Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, described the report as incorrect.
Shehu invited Telegraph to visit Nigeria to witness firsthand the challenges of the government, so that it could stop writing stories that are “untrue”.
“The London Telegraph’s article ‘Children Face Death by Starvation in Northern Nigeria’ (30th July) repeats a claim from an earlier piece ‘Nigeria Using UK Aid to Persecute President’s Political Foes’ (12th April) – that Nigeria is diverting UK aid monies away from defeating the Islamist terror group Boko Haram towards those the newspaper identifies as political opponents of the administration. This is as incorrect as it is unhelpful,” he said.
“These claims in both articles are attributed to an unnamed ‘source’ in the United States, and ‘Western officials.’ Yet 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.
“To state the facts: 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.
“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 organisations – with which we enjoy excellent relations.”
However, the presidential spokesman admitted that the humanitarian situation at the IDP camps is real.
He said that the Buhari administration remained deeply concerned about the medical, health and nutrition challenges of the children, and that it was doing everything possible to improve their situation.
“However, the blame for the plight of refugees lies with Boko Haram. They are its cause, not the Nigerian government,” Shehu said.
“In the light of ongoing efforts, we regret the recent attack on the UN humanitarian convoy in the Northeastern region and are 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.
“As for claims that the administration is targeting Christians and the opposition, these 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.
“To suggest his 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. Fighting this group is key priority of President Buhari’s Administration. Indeed the international community has widely acknowledged his 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. 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.”