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 it 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
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 of
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 malnutrition, stressing that Nigeria did not need to lose more lives to the lack of food in the North East. Earlier, the Senate President had 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 on time to ensure the rehabilitation of the ravaged region. Chairman Senate Committee on Special Duties, Senator Abdul-Aziz Murtala Nyako had on Monday, March 14, called on the federal government to pay adequate attention to IDPs in the country. He said it was important that Nigeria be extremely concerned about what happened at the IDP camps, urging the National Refugees Commission and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA to cater for the poor people Although the lawmaker said the North East Development Commission, which he is proposing would deal with issues bothering on rehabilitating the region, he said it would be foolhardy for Nigeria make the mistake Afganistan made years back which left the country as an incubator for terrorism. “Nigeria must be extremely concerned about what is happening in the IDP camps because it has the capacity to affect our corporate existence. Let us not make the mistake that the world made with Afghanistan and it now became an incubator for terrorism”, he said. To compliment the efforts of their husbands at the Senate, The Senators’ Wives Forum, SWF at the weekend contributed towards fortified foodstuffs and body care products for weaned infants and children at the various IDPs camps in some parts of the country. The Forum, represented by Hajia Hadiza Ali Wakili and Mrs. Louis Gyunka from Bauchi South and Nasarawa North Senatorial Districts respectively, and the Executive Coordinator of the Forum, Ms. Inimfon Etuk, made the donation during the launch of the “Get Involved” component of the Future Assured Initiative, organized by the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, in Abuja. The Get Involved campaign was meant to rally contributions from Nigerians to address heightened incidence of malnutrition in IDPs camps. Leader of the delegation, Hajia Hadiza Wakili who spoke on behalf of the Forum Chair and Wife of the Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, said: “We are moved by the rising and alarming reports of hunger, starvation and malnutrition of our displaced citizens, especially young infants and children, and hope our contribution will go some way to alleviate the heavy public burden of care for our sisters, brothers and children in these displaced communities, as canvassed by the Wife of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Her Excellency, Mrs Aisha Buhari”. However, there is no denying the fact accountability and oversights are very important to the efforts at rehabilitating the insurgency- ravaged North East zone. Also, continues involvement of the international community in the welfare of the IDPs is also necessary. As stated by the senate president after a four-day visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights of IDPs, Dr. Chaloka Beyani, such attention would give the poor and suffering people of the region a lot of hope. He added that Nigeria was heading in the right direction in tackling the North East’s humanitarian crisis; however, there are still many issues in the areas of accountability, such as sexual abuse, lack of protection and the provision of basic services that need to be addressed. “Gradually but surely, we are heading in the right direction. However, let us not take our foot off the gas pedal. We must make accountability an expectation in Nigeria’s humanitarian relief infrastructure. Accountability must be built into all aspects of the relief to rehabilitation effort to promote greater confidence in our capacity”, he added.

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