- …Sets up ad hoc c’ttee on funds released to Presidential C’ttee for North East
- …Raises N31.5 million to support victims
By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—THE Senate has begun probe of alleged diversion of over N5 billion funds made available by the federal government for Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in the North East.
The Senate, which also expressed disappointment over Federal Government’s poor handling of the humanitarian crisis in the region, yesterday commenced probe into the diversion of grains and other food items from the strategic grains reserves, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA and other sources for the IDPs.
The funds and management of the IDPs’ well-being are being supervised by the Presidential Initiative on North-East, PINE, and the Ministry of Agriculture, even as the agencies have been accused of awarding fictitious contracts as well as indifference to what the Senate described as frequent diversion of items meant for IDPs in the face of reports that 150 children die every 24 hours.
The Senate, which also indicted the Federal Government for failing in its duty to provide relief materials to IDPs to help address the effects of lack of foods and other basic amenities in camps located in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states respectively, however, warned that unless something urgent was done to salvage the situation, thousands of people living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps might die.
The Senate also listed 21 companies that had been awarded contracts and paid by the Federal Government to supply food items and provide logistics for the resettlement of IDPs, stressing that there was nothing on ground to show that the listed companies had made supplies to IDPs.
For these reasons, the Senate yesterday set up a 10-man adhoc committee to ascertain how much had been released to the Presidential Initiative on the North East and how these funds were utilized from inception to date. The committee was also asked to investigate the Health Ministry over its perceived indifference to the health conditions of the IDPs, in view of their “insignificant” presence in the camps of the IDPs.
The committee, which is headed by Senator Shehu Sani, has Senators Yahaya Abdullahi; Tayo Alasoadura; Ali Wakili; Ben Murray Bruce; Remi Tinubu; Mohammed Hassan; Solomon Adeola; Theodore Orji and Isaac Alfa as members.
As part of measures to provide succour for the IDPs, the senators resolved to contribute N300,000 each for the wellbeing of the IDPs, which amounted to N31.5 million. The money is expected to be raised by 105 senators.
The Senate also hailed the United Nations and other international agencies involved in the care of the IDPs for their commitment towards alleviating the plight of the victims.
The resolutions of the Senate yesterday, were sequel to a motion by Senator Baba Kaka Garbai (Borno Central) and 18 others who revealed details of how some individuals and groups fraudulently collected N1.2 billion from the federal government for the supply of items to the IDPs only to either end up diverting such money or items or re-sell the items paid for by the government.
According to Garbai, some unknown companies, such as “VFS/Conference for Reb of the NIL” on a single day, June 1, 2016, collected N100 million in two installments of N50,000 million each to organise conferences on the rebuilding of the North-Sast as senators wondered what humanitarian crisis in the camps had to do with conferences.
He also disclosed that a contract was awarded under the guise of supply to IDPs camps to JOSMAN technologies Limited with N203,357, 908 paid to its bank account “for the removal of invasive plant species along river channels and 115 hectares simplified village irrigation in Yobe, even as he accused same company of receiving another N20,689, 399 million for “the removal of invasive plant species and irrigation project in Komadugu, Yobe water channels” as the senators further wondered what removal of plant species from water had to do with the plights of the IDPs.
Senator Garbai said that out the payment of N117 million paid to Lintex International and another N108 million to Dantex Nigeria Limited for the supply of temporary shelters in April, the figures were a far cry from the value of shelters they supplied the camps.
The senators, who alleged that over 4.5 million people were in serious need of assistance, said one million people were in danger of extreme malnutrition. “The Presidential initiative on the North-East which was inaugurated by President Buhari a year ago to manage the crisis, is yet to show tangible result on ground with over half of the money appropriated to it released
“I am also worried that notwithstanding the huge budgetary allocation by the National Assembly, and the various releases by the Executive as exemplified in the table below, including significant donations from many donors, the situation on ground is not cheering
“Rather than use the money appropriated for the IDPs and the North East to ameliorate the problems, the focus of the disbursement so far made have been used to feather other interest,’’ Gabai said.
Garbai, who expressed grave concern over the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the North-eastern part of Nigeria, said in an interview on September 9 in Abuja, that there is “no right word” yet to describe the magnitude of the crisis in the North-east.
The senator further revealed the alleged diversion of 63 trucks of grains which he said were released from strategic grains reserve allocated to the IDPs in Borno State by the federal government, adding that in spite of huge sums of money being released by the federal government, the plights of the IDPs continued to degenerate everyday.
In his contribution, Senator Abu Kyari (Borno North), said the value of shelters found in the camps did not exceed N4 million, wondering what the money released for the project was used for. He also lamented that both the Presidential Initiative on North-East and the Ministry of Agriculture, saddled with the responsibilities of supervising the management of North-east crisis, had been supervising “fraud.
Also speaking, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, who explained how a foreign agency recently lamented that the worst humanitarian crisis ever witnessed in the world might be the current situation in the North-east, however, recalled how one of the agents of the agency said having been part of the devastating humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, what occurred in Darfur would be mere child’s play, compared with what was currently playing out in the North-east.
Senator Ndume begged his colleagues to take a firm position and demand that the right thing be done. Also in his contribution, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, compared the situation in the North-East to post-Nigerian civil war humanitarian crisis in today’s South-East.
He disclosed that about N1 billion had been released by the Federal Government, out of the N10 billion budgeted by the National Assembly for resettlement and welfare of IDPs.
In his remark, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, described the situation as nothing but insensitivity to emergencies, monumental corruption and heartless attitudes of those feeding fat on the plights of the IDPs. Saraki added that only recently, the UN said there were moves to address the crisis through the introduction of cluster system.
According to him, the UN only adopts this approach when it loses confidence in a country’s ability to handle an emergency of this magnitude.