Senate president, Bukola Saraki
Senate president, Bukola Saraki

With the recent reports of aid relief deliverables being diverted by some officials in charge of ensuring the distribution of materials to the internally displaced persons, IDPs, the August 24 protest at the Gidan Taki camp in Borno State didn’t come to many as a surprise. The hapless people reportedly took to the street of Maiduguri en masse from the camp took and barricaded the Maiduguri – Gamboru Ngala road hindering movement of vehicles for over an hour. They demanded for the immediate removal of the camp chairman, Mohammed Sema over allegations of diversion of foodstuff meant for IDPs.
Not too long ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF 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.
It is a fact that some persons in charge of IDPs camps in the North-East have been corruptly diverting foodstuffs meant to feed the hapless people plagued with malnutrition and diseases following the activities of deadly Islamic sect, Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnsh Lidda’ Awati Wal Jihad, popularly known and called Boko Haram in the region.
The group’s activities which characterized by incessant attacks in virtually all the states in the region and beyond, resulted in many lives lost and property worth billions of Naira destroyed. The security situation forced millions of people to leave their homes for safer abodes even outside the country, before government created various camps for more safety measures and adequate welfare.
Recently too, unidentified assailants attacked a humanitarian convoy that was on its way to Maiduguri from Bama. The convoy included staff from United Nations International Children Education Fund, UNICEF; United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and d the International Organisation for Migration, IOM.
Unfortunately, IDPs in some camps across the country, especially the Boko Haram ravaged North East totalling about 2.3 million have suffered intense malnutrition leading to subsequent death and diseases despite the money and items donations made by well-meaning Nigerians, government, non-governmental organizations, NGOs and international bodies.
However, the 8th Senate has shown enough concern towards welfare of the IDPs especially in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. The upper legislative chamber had on Tuesday, March 15 directed its Committee on Appropriations to allocate N10billion under service wide votes for relocation and resettlement of the IDPs returnees those states. Also in a five prayer motion titled Interim Financial and Maternal Support to IDPs returnees in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, the Senate urged the federal government to release grains from the strategic grain reserve to the affected states.
Latest move by the Upper House was the plan to offer a motion on the situation in the North East when senators resume from their ongoing recess later this month. The motion, according to the senate president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki specifically calls for the establishment of an Ad-Hoc Committee on the North East. Saraki added that the motion will call for the conduct of a public hearing for the purpose of the Senate to use its oversight powers to review Nigeria’s humanitarian policies, better understand the current humanitarian coordination infrastructure and hear testimony from witnesses representing the government, humanitarian experts and the IDPs themselves.
Saraki, while describing the continued diversion of foodstuff meant for the IDPs as desperate, vowed that the Senate will investigate the matter. He was not happy that such action has led to severe hunger and nutrition crisis in IDP camps.
He said: “Anyone that is found to be diverting the food aid deliveries should be investigated and brought to book if investigations prove their participation in these vicious schemes. Profiting from a complex humanitarian crisis is unacceptable. The people of the North East have suffered enough indignities in the past four years from the marauding Boko Haram terrorists. Stealing food meant for starving children is beyond the pale and only adds insult to injury”.
The Senate President called on the Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and other law enforcement agencies to quickly move in to investigate the diversion of food aid deliveries. He said that government officials and contractors should be held to account for how truckloads of provisions intended for the IDP camps mysteriously went missing.
“The situation in the North East has been underreported and under resourced for far too many years. In terms of scale and complexity, the situation in the North East is more dire than South Sudan. Yet, apparently the crisis appears not to be sexy or star-studded enough to attract greater international attention and support.”
He emphasized the need for Nigeria to quickly operationalise a more effective and efficient humanitarian response infrastructure to address the dire situation.
“It is important that we all focus on eliminating the coordination, access and food supply issues hindering us from successfully feeding the millions of IDPs. This is particularly important for the many children who are dying daily from starvation. It should break every Nigerians heart to know that our own women and children are enduring such horrendous hardships”, he stated.
Moved by the pathetic plight of the IDPs, the Senate President had on July 18 led a delegation to Maiduguri in Borno State where he pledged that the Senate would look into the issue of malnutrition and shortage of medical supplies in the region. North East Development Commission, NEDC Bill is currently awaiting its third and final reading in the Senate.
Two days later, through a Point of Order raised by Senator Baba Kaka Garbai (APC Borno Central), the Senate discussed the issue of malnutrition in the North East and resolved that the Ministry of Finance should immediately release necessary funds to the North East while the Federal Government should begin coordination of private sector donations to the region.
During the debate on the motion, Saraki emphasised the need for a sustainable public-private-partnership driven approach to combat the issue

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