IDPs, false fig­ures and fraud­sters

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

Pic­tures of se­verely mal­nour­ished chil­dren in an In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons (IDPs) camp in Bama, Borno State which was cir­cu­lated by the in­ter­na­tional NGO Medecins Sans Fron­tieres (MSF), or Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders, caused shock and con­ster­na­tion in Nige­ria and around the world as well. MSF said in the state­ment that 24,000 IDPs were in poor health con­di­tion in the camps with at least 30 peo­ple, mostly chil­dren, dy­ing ev­ery day. Nige­ri­ans were ini­tially shocked to hear that this level of se­vere mal­nu­tri­tion will oc­cur in a camp run by gov­ern­ment, de­spite do­na­tions made by phi­lan­thropists and for­eign char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions.

It soon turned out that MSF omit­ted a very im­por­tant piece of in­for­ma­tion. Borno State Gov­er­nor Kashim Shet­tima, on whose en­tourage MSF of­fi­cials went to the Bama camp, said those se­verely mal­nour­ished chil­dren were among those re­cently lib­er­ated from ar­eas un­der Boko Haram con­trol. Shet­tima also or­dered the re­lo­ca­tion of 61 se­verely mal­nour­ished chil­dren to the in­ten­sive care unit of the Umaru Shehu Ul­tramod­ern Hospi­tal in Maiduguri, where they are cur­rently be­ing at­tended to. This was a se­ri­ous omis­sion on MSF’s part and it un­fairly cre­ated the im­pres­sion that IDPs were that in par­lous state after many months in gov­ern­ment camps.

With that rid­dle solved, Nige­ri­ans were soon in for another shock. In dis­pelling no­tions har­boured by many peo­ple that Borno State Gov­ern­ment had re­ceived bil­lions of naira in cash do­na­tions to as­sist IDPs, Gov­er­nor Shet­tima said Borno State gov­ern­ment has re­ceived a to­tal of N345 mil­lion in cash from all sources, in­clud­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment. BOSG it­self, Shet­tima said, spends N600 mil­lion ev­ery month to cater for IDPs, apart from con­tri­bu­tions it makes to se­cu­rity agen­cies.

He said, “Con­trary to wild as­sump­tions that the Borno State gov­ern­ment has re­ceived bil­lions in cash do­na­tions in lo­cal and for­eign cur­ren­cies for the man­age­ment of In­ter­nally Dis­placed Per­sons, a to­tal of N345 mil­lion is the overall amount re­ceived as cash do­na­tion by our ad­min­is­tra­tion from May 2011 to date.”

He gave the break­down as: Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment un­der Good­luck Jonathan, N200m in four years; Lagos State, N50m in Oc­to­ber 2015; Edo State, N25m in 2013; Kano State, N20m in 2013; Adamawa State, N20m in 2013; Ek­iti State, N10m in 2013; Osun State, N10m in 2013; Kaduna State N5m and Unity Bank, N5m. He added, “There is one wo­man who prefers her name not to be men­tioned. She do­nated N100,000 in cash, bring­ing the to­tal cash re­ceived to N345,100,000.”

Ac­cord­ing to the gov­er­nor, all the do­na­tions from for­eign agen­cies were not in cash but in kind, in form of food items and med­i­cal sup­plies which they dis­trib­uted to the IDPs di­rectly. We com­mend the gov­er­nor for his open­ness and we com­mend the Borno State gov­ern­ment for its Her­culean ef­forts on be­half of its dis­placed cit­i­zens. The IDPs chal­lenge is un­prece­dented in scale since the Nige­rian Civil War ended in 1970 and no one ex­pects it to progress with­out hitches.

How­ever, MSF’s pic­tures prob­a­bly helped be­cause the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has now de­clared a nu­tri­tional emer­gency in the Borno IDP camps. Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant on Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity to the Vice Pres­i­dent Laolu Akande said the gov­ern­ment has mo­bilised a rapid re­sponse team to co­or­di­nate ef­forts to ame­lio­rate the IDPs’ plight. Spe­cial Ad­viser to the Pres­i­dent on So­cial In­vest­ments Mrs. Maryam Uwais also led a gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion to the Bama IDPs camp for an on the spot as­sess­ment. All hands must be on deck to feed the IDPs, take care of their health needs and ren­der ev­ery other as­sis­tance while they await the chance to re­turn to their homes and re­sume their nor­mal lives.

The other very dis­turb­ing thing Shet­tima said was that some lo­cal NGOs use pic­tures of starv­ing IDPs to de­fraud for­eign phi­lan­thropists by mo­bil­is­ing funds, which they then di­vert to their own use. This is wicked. We urge the au­thor­i­ties to care­fully fish out the cul­prits and visit them with ex­em­plary pun­ish­ment in or­der to de­ter other as­pir­ing fraud­sters.

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