Maiduguri: a hu­man­i­tar­ian hub in Boko Haram ter­ri­tory

African Independent - - NEWS - CÉLIA LEBUR

Maiduguri’s main source of rev­enue – the trans­port of goods to land-locked coun­tries such as Chad, Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Su­dan – is strug­gling to take off again.

The army has re­opened some main roads but am­bushes still hap­pen fre­quently and ve­hi­cles are not al­lowed to travel without a heav­ily armed mil­i­tary es­cort.

Maiduguri’s needs re­main huge, how­ever, with the pop­u­la­tion hav­ing dou­bled since 2009, as more than one mil­lion peo­ple sought a safe haven from Boko Haram at­tacks. Con­fined to camps or liv­ing among the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, they survive on ex­ter­nal aid.

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, nearly two mil­lion peo­ple in the north­east re­gion are cur­rently suf­fer­ing from se­vere acute mal­nu­tri­tion and 5.5 mil­lion are in need of food aid.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity be­lat­edly re­alised the scale of the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in north­east Nige­ria and most of the NGOs now in Maiduguri only ar­rived from mid-2016.

Since then, daily life in the camps is an end­less round of food distri­bu­tion. Huge gleam­ing white 4x4 ve­hi­cles be­long­ing to aid agen­cies ply the roads.

Long queues form at bank ATMs ev­ery morn­ing as peo­ple try to get money from cash trans­fer schemes to see them through to the end of the month.

Muham­madu Ali, a 48-year-old civil ser­vant, fled the bor­der town of Ngala with his wife and 10 chil­dren. His mea­gre salary is not enough for his fam­ily to live on.

“How can I feed them with 20 000 naira? We are to­tally re­liant on aid,” he said.

Not ev­ery­one is suf­fer­ing hard­ship. Cer­tain sec­tors have even ben­e­fited from the influx of for­eign non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and the dis­placed peo­ple.

“I can tell you we make money,” laughed Ali Garba Bashehu, the head of Dol­phin, one of the few es­tate agents in Maiduguri.

Prop­erty own­ers who fled Maiduguri in their droves, think­ing the city would fall to the in­sur­gents, sold their houses for next to noth­ing.

The same prop­er­ties are now rented out for a for­tune.

“NGOs don’t know what to do with the money,” said Bashehu, as he gave a tour of Maiduguri’s gov­ern­ment re­served area, its high walls topped with barbed wire.

“You see this com­pound sur­rounded by the blue drums? The UN rents it for $225 000 a year, pre-paid!” he said.

Down the road, he pointed out an­other build­ing rented by a French NGO for $120 000 a year.

“This ho­tel is fully leased by the year,” he said stop­ping in front of a large white build­ing. “You can’t book a room.

“A house worth one mil­lion naira per year can cost up to five mil­lion to­day.”

In more mod­est ar­eas, too, prices have soared.

Baba Wuroma Us­man, who is in his 50s, rented out a two-bed­room prop­erty for 100 000 naira three years ago. Now, he asks for dou­ble that.

The UN said that $1.05 bil­lion is re­quired in Nige­ria this year to fund its hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­grammes.

At a con­fer­ence in Oslo in Fe­bru­ary, donors pledged $672 mil­lion.

De­spite the dire need for food, clean wa­ter, shel­ter and health­care, there is prof­i­teer­ing and cor­rup­tion.

PIC­TURE: STE­FAN HEUNIS / AFP

A man looks at pota­toes dis­played on a stall at the Mon­day Mar­ket, one of the big­gest mar­kets in Maiduguri in north­east­ern Nige­ria.

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