Nige­ria probes re­ports of food aid stolen from refugees

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Lo­cal law­mak­ers in north­east Nige­ria are in­ves­ti­gat­ing fresh al­le­ga­tions that of­fi­cials have di­verted food aid in­tended for peo­ple who have fled from Boko Haram. The al­le­ga­tions in Adamawa state cen­ter on of­fi­cials and mar­ket traders ac­cused of selling food items do­nated by Nige­ria’s cus­toms ser­vice, said Has­san Bar­guma, chair of a com­mit­tee fo­cused on refugees in the Adamawa state as­sem­bly. “Steal­ing food meant for starv­ing chil­dren is be­yond the pale and only adds in­sult to in­jury,” Bar­guma said.

Boko Haram’s seven-year-old in­sur­gency has killed more than 20,000 peo­ple and dis­placed more than 2.6 mil­lion in Nige­ria and neigh­bor­ing Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Law­mak­ers and of­fi­cials are al­ready in­ves­ti­gat­ing re­ports that food aid was stolen in Borno state, the birth­place of Boko Haram where the UN has warned that tens of thou­sands of chil­dren could die from mal­nu­tri­tion.

The re­ports sparked protests from refugees who at one point blocked a main high­way head­ing into Maiduguri, the north­east’s largest city. Nige­ria’s cus­toms ser­vice in Au­gust re­leased 11 trucks of food aid in­clud­ing rice, oil and spaghetti for refugees in Adamawa state. Yet Bar­guma said many of the items did not reach refugees and were in­stead sold to lo­cal mar­kets. Sadiq Daware, deputy co­or­di­na­tor of Adamawa’s poverty alle­vi­a­tion of­fice, de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

“Who­ever tells you the items were di­verted is very far away from the truth,” he said. He said lo­cal of­fi­cials fol­lowed an ap­proved dis­tri­bu­tion plan, though he noted that this called for some of the aid to be given to politi­cians and of­fi­cials act­ing as in­ter­me­di­aries. Refugee com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Adamawa said they were in­fu­ri­ated by re­ports of stolen food aid and called for a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “We are be­ing fed only once or twice daily,” said Habu Ali, a com­mu­nity leader in Fu­fore. He said most refugees pre­ferred to go out and fend for them­selves rather than “be­ing treated like an­i­mals” in the camps.

Fal­mata Ali, an­other refugee, said chil­dren in her camp were al­ways cry­ing out for more food. “We are tired of all these in­hu­man treat­ments. Let them take us back to our towns in Borno,” she said. Adamawa state once housed 60,000 refugees, though Nige­ria’s National Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency re­ported on Fri­day that the fig­ure had dropped to 18,958 as peo­ple re­turned home. —AP

MAIDUGURI: Chil­dren dis­placed by Is­lamist ex­trem­ists wheel food handed out to them at the Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, Nige­ria. — AP

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