IDP camp
IDP camp

In recent months, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has repeatedly issued warnings that of the 244,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in Borno State alone; one in five would die if they do not receive the appropriate treatment. Last month, Senate President Bukola Saraki led a delegation to Internally Displaced Peoples’, IDP, camps in Maiduguri, Borno State, where he pledged that the Senate would work on expediting the passage of the North East Development Commission, NEDC, Bill, as well as look into the issue of malnutrition and shortage of medical supplies in the North-East. The bill aims to create a multi-state platform for the coordination of relief and donations to the zone. The NEDC Bill before the National Assembly is being pushed for passage by the two chambers of the legislature to ensure the rehabilitation of the ravaged region due to the deadly activities of an Islamic sect, Jama’atuAhlusSunnshLidda’ AwatiWal Jihad, popularly called Boko Haram. The group’s activities often characterised by incessant attacks in virtually all the states in the zone and beyond have resulted in the loss of many lives, while property worth billions of naira were destroyed. The North East geo-political zone that comprises six states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe were historically known for peace and tranquility. But in recent years, it has been facing serious security and developmental challenges. Since the group started its July 26, 2009 attack on a police station in Maiduguri, the situation has degenerated into insurgency and terrorism. This eventually led to the establishment of IDP camps for surviving victims of the sect’s activities. The loss of innocent lives and the consequent huge number of IDPs spread across the zone and neighbouring states. Sadly enough, the latest attack was on a relief convoy that left two aid workers, one contractor and two soldiers injured. The unidentified assailants attacked a humanitarian convoy that was on its way to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, from Bama. The convoy included staff from UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and International Organisation for Migration, IOM. Following this attack, UNICEF announced tha it would be temporarily suspending “humanitarian assistance missions pending a review of the security situation” in the North-East. This made Saraki to call for an immediate review of the security situation in the zone by the relevant authorities, and urged domestic and international partners to step up humanitarian intervention projects to save more lives.
not to treat the rumours with levity, but to urgently investigate the issue to unravel those behind the menace, if any. In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja, Saraki said it has become necessary for the nation’s intelligence outfits to take such rumours seriously with the aim of curtailing the untoward development. “Seeing that ISIS has been recruiting members from European refugee camps, and the Kenyan government recently had to shut down the world’s largest refugee camp because Al-Shaabab was using the place to train and recruit young people as extremists, it is important that we take the rumours about Boko Haram recruiting from IDP camps seriously,” he said. According to political observers, those behind the dastardly act might be the same set of people involved in the diversion of food and other items meant for the succor of IDPs. Interestingly, the Economic and Financial
“It is a difficult situation, whichever way we look at it. However, it is situations like these that should prompt aid agencies on ground to scale up their activities and coordination in order to save thousands of lives”. Worse still, there had been rumours of Boko Haram terrorists’ recruitment in IDP camps. The Senate president called on security agencies Crimes Commission, EFCC, is already investigating having arrested a contractor who diverted 60 trucks of grains that were allocated to IDPs in Borno State by the federal government. Both the Senate and House of Representatives had in the past decried the appalling conditions and malnourishment among IDPs in various camps and called on the federal government to urgently address their plight, saying government’s support services were not reaching those affected. This has made Saraki to, on many occasions promised that the upper legislative chamber would work on expediting the passage of the NEDC bill, as well as look into the issue of malnutrition and shortage of medical supplies in the North-East. Expressing optimism on the passage of the bill, he said the Senate was using the period of the recess to iron out the creases needed to ensure a smooth passage of the bill. “I am confident that we are at the last stretch on the NEDC Bill – at least as far as the Senate is concerned. When we return from recess, it will be very high on our list of priority legislative interventions,” he said. While hailing the EFCC on the arrest of the contractor who diverted relief materials, the Senate president denounced the action of individuals who are enriching themselves off the plight of the IDPs, stating that it is unconscionable for anyone to attempt to defraud millions of displaced Nigerians that are on the verge of becoming malnourished. “I have been to the zone twice in the last 14 months and I have experienced firsthand that the IDPs need as much food as they can get. It is utterly immoral for someone to withhold food – in an attempt to enrich himself – while women and children are starving”, Saraki said. The Senate president, who called for a more comprehensive investigation of diverted materials to IDPs, last week, stated that in order to secure aid and funding from international partners, there is need for a better coordinated response by the federal government to the situation in the North-East. “What is clear right now is that we cannot do this alone, adding that this is why we need to ensure that we put everything that we can in place to ensure that the international community is involved at maximum capacity”, he said. Saraki added that he was already making consultations on whether or not to call a Senate public hearing to deliberate on the government’s response to the IDP crisis which many observers have called a looming humanitarian crisis, if not properly addressed. “If we all have to sit down with the various stakeholders at the Senate to find out what the institutional and logistical hindrances are, that is what we are going to do. It is not enough for us to say that there is a problem, we need to push out solutions quickly; hunger will not wait for anyone”. Also, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, Refugees and Initiatives in the North-East, Mohammed Sani Zorro from Jigawa State, expressed concern over the appalling condition and malnourishment among IDPs in the region. While stressing that there is rapid deterioration of humanitarian situation in the region, the House noted that some agencies, saddled with the duty of responding to the plight of IDPs, do not have the capacity to meet the requirements necessary for such services. Zorro said recently that “the present chaos in the field can be traceable to the absence of concurrent plan(s) to respond to today’s internal displacement challenges triggered by intensified military campaign aimed at defeating Boko Haram insurgency.” He held that for ‘inexplicable’ reasons, the federal government had failed to embrace best global policy practices that would have helped significantly in attracting the commitment of genuine donor organisations and humanitarian agencies. “The situation has been aggravated by the refusal of the federal government to adopt and operationalise the well articulated national policy on internally displaced persons, developed and updated over the years”, he added in a statement. The Senate president has also commended the pledge of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to continue providing relief assistance to millions in the North-East, despite the Thursday, June 28 attack on a relief convoy that left two aid workers, one contractor and two soldiers injured. He, however, called on the security agencies and the Attorney- General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to investigate the allegations that some aid deliverables meant for IDPs are being diverted by officials in charge of distributing same to the people. Saraki lauded UNICEF for not turning its back on the troubled zone which has witnessed increased cases of malnutrition, primarily amongst women and children since the Boko Haram insurgency in the region led to suspension of agricultural activities, destroyed markets and hindered access to clean water. “UNICEF’s decision to press on in the North-East despite Thursday’s attack is truly commendable. On our part, the Nigerian government must back the resolve of our international partners with greater coordination platforms in terms of security for aid workers and thorough mandate mapping exercises to ensure that we are meeting the needs of those in crisis areas”, he said. To address security challenges in the zone, the federal government initiated a five-year special intervention package to quicken the socio- economic development of states in the zone by building functional partnership involving the federal, state and local governments. At inception, N2 billion was earmarked in the 2014 budget to alleviate the challenges of the worse hit states- Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. The Victims Support Fund is a private sector complement for the same purpose. However, some political analysts have taken a critical look at all these activities and concluded that they might further delay the development of the region even if the NEDC bill is passed and signed into law.

READ ALSO  PDP Govs Forum: Mimiko to succeed Akpabio