- ON FRIDAY, February 24, 2017, Norway, together with Nigeria, Germany and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN OCHA hosted an international donor conference in Oslo, Norway to discuss ways to address the humanitarian crisis in the North East Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin. Nigerian delegation to the conference included the Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who is also a member of the Presidential Committee for North East Initiative, PCNI. According to the Norway Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Borge Brende, “A major humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. This crisis has been largely overlooked. We are therefore seeking to mobilise greater international involvement and increased funding for humanitarian efforts to prevent the situation from deteriorating further”. He added: “We must bring an end to this crisis, and reverse the downward spiral we are seeing in the region. This conference has three aims: to raise awareness about the crisis, to gain more support for humanitarian efforts, and to secure greater political commitment to improve the situation”. UN OCHA is part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures there is a framework within which each actor can contribute to the overall response effort. The UN OCHA reported that over $449million has been received as at December 2016 which is equivalent to about N140billion. The Oslo Donor Conference is targeting to raise $1billion which is about N305billion for the 2017 humanitarian response action, HRA. According to the Borno State Members of the National Assembly Caucus, “currently, there are more international non-governmental organizations, NGOs that are helping out in the affected areas”. The lawmakers said “as representatives of the people at the epicenter of the humanitarian crisis, we highly welcome this initiative”. Former Senate Leader, Senator Muhammad Ali Ndume representing Borno North Senatorial District under the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC, who briefed journalists on behalf of his colleagues in Abuja over the state of humanitarian relief efforts in the North East, especially Borno State, recently said “the Oslo donor conference is a welcome chance to raise the profile of the crisis, address the urgent humanitarian needs, raise more money from a wider set of donors, and come up with a concrete set of recommendations and proposals to strengthen the collective response to the crisis and the long- term needs in the region”. The lawmaker accused the federal government of not doing enough to address the humanitarian crisis in the North East region ravaged by the activities of the dreaded Islamic sect, Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnsh Lidda’ Awati Wal Jihad, popularly known and called Boko Haram. “The federal government is concerned, but not doing enough”, he lamented. Ndume said only N12billion was allocated to Presidential Initiative on North East, PINE in the 2016 Appropriation Act to address the humanitarian crisis in the region, out of which he said only75 per cent was released. According to him, “this is less than 10 per cent of the $449billion contributed by international donor countries and agencies”. “In the budget proposal under consideration by the National Assembly, only N45billion is allocated to Presidential Committee for North East Initiative, PCNI. This is grossly inadequate to address the emergency humanitarian crisis we are faced with compared to the $1.0billion which is equivalent to over N305billion that the international donor countries and agencies are trying to raise”, he said. The lawmaker therefore stressed the need for UN OCHA, federal government and state government to work in synergy in coordinating the Humanitarian Response Action in the North East and other crisis affected areas in the country to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability. He also wanted increase the allocation to PCNI from N45billion to at least N100billion, while other state governments, individuals, religious organizations, NGOs should help the affected states, adding that the media should also continue to galvanize support to the affected region. Ndume identified PCNI, NEMA, BOSG, SEMA, VSF, and Dangote Foundation as the visible government agencies on ground to assist the region, but added that international NGOs are more visible and active. He added that “except few individuals particularly Gen. T. Y Danjuma and Aliko Dangote as well as some organizations and NGOs, Nigerians are just watching us going through this horrific experience in our life time”. The former Senate Leader, therefore, stressed the need for more assistance from individuals and groups in the country, lamenting that Borno State government was overwhelmed with its meager resources. He stated that the state and local governments were using almost their allocations to feed the internally displaced persons, IDPs; paying salaries as well as reconstructing, resettling and rehabilitating the recaptured and accessible areas. “The conflict between Boko Haram and military counter operations in North East Nigeria resulted in widespread forced displacement, a major food and nutrition crisis, violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, severe protection concerns and a growing humanitarian crisis of global proportion. “Now in its eighth year, insecurity continues and is adding to the long history of marginalization and chronic under-development as well as a higher rate of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. “Long-standing environmental degradation, closure of markets and disruption of regional trade also contributes to eroding livelihoods, while conflict has caused forced displacement and human suffering on a massive scale”, he stressed. On the impact of the crisis, Ndume said: “The conflict between Boko Haram and military counter operations in North East Nigeria resulted in widespread forced displacement, a major food and nutrition crisis, violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, severe protection concerns and a growing humanitarian crisis of global proportion. Now in its eighth year, insecurity continues and is adding to the long history of marginalization and chronic under-development as well as a higher rate of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. Long-standing environmental degradation, closure of markets and disruption of regional trade also contributes to eroding livelihoods, while conflict has caused forced displacement and human suffering on a massive scale”. According to him, 14.8 million people are affected by the crisis while the estimated cost of destructions is put at over $9 billion. He further informed that up to 7.0 million people in the North East are in need of humanitarian assistance with 1.8 million are IDPs out of which more than 80 per cent are living in host
communities and the rest in camps. The lawmaker went further: 2.5 million children are said to be malnourished, majority of them are in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, 1.3 million children are without access to education, over 65,000 children are orphaned due to the crisis, over 500 schools have been destroyed in Borno alone, and over 100 churches and mosques were destroyed. He added that about 100 returning lDPs are without anything to start life with, over 100,000 people lost their lives as a result of the crisis, about 250 health centers are destroyed, about 800 municipal buildings comprising of police stations, secretariat, prisons and other public buildings, among others are destroyed, 800,000 houses were destroyed, about 500,000 livestock lost, and about 726 energy distribution lines were destroyed, high damage to the ecosystem Ndume, however, listed nine steps that needed to be taken to save more lives and assist people in North East as adopted by NGOs
operating in the affected areas. They include: prioritize the protection of civilians; an urgent scale up of the food and nutrition response is needed; increase access to more, better and safe quality education; safe access to people must be guaranteed; ensure greater investment in further strengthening UN, and government and NGO leadership, decision making, coordination and the accountability of the humanitarian response. Others are: ensure all returnees are safe, voluntary and dignified; build resilience and increase local capacity to defend and fend for themselves; increase security and protection around the Lake Chad Region to encourage safe return of fishermen and farmers; and kick start the process to recharge the Lake Chad. There is no denying the fact that before the activities of Boko Haram, the North East geo- political zone that comprises six states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe were historically known for its peace and tranquility. But in the recent
years, it has been facing with serious security challenges. Since the group started with the July 26, 2009 first attack on a police station in Maiduguri, the situation has degenerated into insurgency and terrorism.. The group’s activities often characterized by incessant attacks in virtually all the states in the zone and beyond have resulted in many lives lost and property worth billions of Naira destroyed. The security situation further degenerated in 2013, leading to the declaration of a State of Emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. The zone shares international borders with three countries: Republic of Cameroon to the East, Republic of Chad to the North East and Niger Republic to the North. However, it is a fact that accountability and oversights by the National Assembly are very important to the efforts at rehabilitating the insurgency- ravaged North East region. Also, continued involvement of the international community in the welfare of the IDPs is necessary.