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That Boko Haram victims support programme

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After more than three months of extensive deliberations, consultations and dialogue on ways of unraveling the root causes of insurgency in Northern Nigeria and how to achieve lasting peace within the region, the Tanimu Turaki-led Peace and Dialogue Committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan finally submitted its report.

Expectedly, some aspects of the report, especially the portion that ruled out compensation for victims of Boko Haram attacks across the country, generated pockets of reactions from members of the public.

The decision not to openly hand out money or other relief materials to innocent and helpless Nigerians who became refugees in their own land didn’t go down well with most Nigerians, who argued that successive governments have always compensated victims of crises as a way of helping them to overcome their pains and losses.

Meanwhile, some weeks after, President Goodluck Jonathan during a function at the Word of Life International Gospel Centre, in Warri, DeltaState, assured victims of the dreaded sect, Boko Haram, that a committee will soon be put in place to work on how they will be compensated.

The committee is to be mandated to fashion out Boko Haram Victims’ Support Programme.

This is indeed cheering news for victims of crises in the country. A number of reasons must have compelled the President’s decision to have a more organised and coordinated means of meeting the needs and aspirations of victims of violence or ethnic disturbances in different parts of the country.

We are not unaware of reports of alleged diversion and looting of funds meant for flood victims by some TarabaState government officials.

A few of other examples of how people take advantage of such windows to become instant millionaires are not far-fetched.

While speaking at the event, President Jonathan said although the Federal Government would not want to create a wrong impression, a committee would be set up to provide a blueprint on how victims of Boko Haram could be compensated, saying there was no way government could actually cushion the plights of the victims.

Offering further insight as to how his government intends to introduce a wholesome compensatory package that would be accepted by all said, the President said: “The word compensation was too vague; that’s why I was ambiguous about my statement. I don’t want to send wrong signals to the world; that is why I oppose the word compensation.

“We may not be able to compensate them adequately but we are going to assist them in ensuring that they pick the bits and pieces of their lives again”.

We cannot but rule out the obvious fact that President Jonathan remains committed to meeting the yearnings and aspirations of all Nigerians through well-defined and structurally organised procedures.

The era of doling out monies to government officials to distribute to victims of either natural or man-made disasters is over. In place of such unorganised procedure, this administration has deemed it necessary to set up a committee comprising of well-meaning Nigerians and God-fearing individuals to map out plans on how best to address the plights of victims of violence across the country.

Those who genuinely have the interest of victims of Boko Haram at heart have realised that the idea of doling out money to their representatives isn’t the best option. Some of such worthy moves have been abused in the past by those saddled with such responsibilities.

Those whose past time is to shine at the expense of suffering and grieving Nigerians and those who have become sudden millionaires by simply diverting funds meant for the people. Enough is enough.

This is a clear demonstration that government is out to block holes through which highly placed government officials and their accomplices in states and local government levels shortchange Nigeria and Nigerians.

Well, some might have some misgivings about this change in the manner of alleviating the sufferings of victims of Boko Haram insurgency, giving the fact that millions are daily released to ex-militants as allowances for their oversea trainings, it is, however, instructive that for us to get things done rightly, we must alter existing modus operandi.

This move I believe isn’t geared towards denying these Nigerians what is rightfully theirs, but a deliberate effort to ensure that victims of crises are not only assisted, but given a meaningful lift above their circumstances.

Of course, the victim support programme is not entirely a thinking or conclusion of Mr President. It is solely part of the recommendations of the Tanimu Turaki-led Committee. Undoubtedly, Mr President’s resolve to work with the recommendations of the committee give credence to the fact that government is very much interested in the efforts put in by members of the committee. This is no doubt a right step in the right direction.

As commendable and laudable as this initiative might appear, it is instructive that government matches its words with actions by ensuring that the programme achieves its desired goals and objectives. It should ensure that self-seeking and greedy government officials do not hijack the entire process. Victims of Boko Haram attacks are our brothers and sisters.

We feel their pains. Even though government cannot in sincere terms offer adequate compensation for the losses they suffered, it is instructive that we do our best to provide reprieve for them. There are in situations that they never bargained for. It could be anyone. All they require from us are reasons for them to look beyond their miseries, pains and anguish.

Mr Ola Lookman, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja

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