By Rose Moses
If you have been looking for the section of the Holy Book, where God, after creation, had cause to look back and declare that the heart of man is desperately evil, you need not look far. Just open the chapter on present day Nigeria, and even beyond, click on the verse or stories on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and you will see, crystal clear, how mean and wicked man can be to fellow man.
For when it is not bombs ‘mistakenly’ dropped in the camps of IDPs by those that ought to protect them from deadly invasions by Boko Haram terrorists, among others, it could be that the women are either being raped or forced into prostitution as means of survival.
Or simply, it could be that aids donated to them by well meaning individuals, organizations or groups, are diverted by those not so in need. What a shame!
In a country where leaders could steal even from the poor in various disguises, the poor are made, albeit fraudulently, to maintain the ostentatious and bogus lifestyles of those in power and its corridors, even with their lives.
Isn’t that why a top government official would claim to have cut grass, in the face of hunger at the IDP camps, to the tune of N270 million? What a depraved act that has rightly earned the man the sobriquet of ‘Grass Cutter of the Federal Republic (GCFR)’ by angry populace.
Because the rich brazenly steal from the poor, items as common as dates donated to the poor are diverted and sold in local markets. Relief materials that could provide succour and roof over the heads of homeless, helpless, hapless displaced people find their way into the homes of politicians. And the IDPs are left in squalor, hunger and disease, despite huge amount of money claimed to have been spent on them by governments.
Just few days to the end of Ramadan, an Islamic activity marked by fasting, and which preaches piety, self-denial, prayers and generosity to the poor and needy, the Nigerian government had to apologise to Saudi Arabia, after it was discovered that 200 tonnes of dates the kingdom sent as a Ramadan gift, were found on sale in local markets in Maiduguri.
Dates are usually the first thing eaten by Muslims when they break the Ramadan fast each evening, and Borno State being the hardest hit by the Boko Haram conflict, harbours millions of people in need of life-saving aid.
It is no secret that about half of relief materials, including food and funds, sent to the Northeast for IDPs by well meaning individuals, organizations and even governments, usually ‘develop wings. Government’s claim to investigate this callous act has yet to stop anything, more so when no arrests have been made.
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa wept recently on national television when relief materials she claimed to have sourced from the National Refugees Commission (NRC) for victims of fire outbreak in Dayspring Island, Bakassi, Cross River State, ended up at the home of a politician in the community for onward delivery to markets where they would be sold.
Few days after the emotional outburst, an opposing group in a protest march, however, accused Ita-Giwa of actually being the culprit, claiming she has been in the business of enriching herself over the years from materials meant for the displaced Bakassi people.
Though, she has long dismissed this twist as a sponsored campaign against her by the PDP-run state government, the fact remains that some privileged persons there have been diverting aids meant for the displaced, whose only sin is the misfortune of being led by a group of corrupt leaders.
Little surprise also that some officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were reportedly caught, recently, re-bagging some rice procured by government, benevolent Nigerians, and foreign donors for the IDPs, with the intent of selling them. That is how pathetic the situation could get.
Equally involved in the wicked enterprise of short-changing the IDPs are civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), some of who claim to be working for their interest but with totally different motives.
Across the country, tales of inhuman acts against the poor by people, some of who have stolen so much from our common wealth to last them forever, abound. And you wonder how greedy a people could get.
It is therefore good to hear that the House of Representatives has raised the alarm on the ugly development, mandating its Committees on Emergency/Disaster Preparedness, Aids/Loans/Debt Management and IDPs to investigate the development, specifically, the sources of the donations, how they were applied, and to report back to the House.
It is also sweet music to the ear that the Presidency has assured that a new distribution matrix adopted under the Special Relief Intervention would significantly curb diversion of these aides to IDPs.
What will nonetheless make all the difference is that these promises are not swept under the carpet like most government’s pronouncements, more so now that the World Food Programme is scaling back its emergency plans in the Northeast due to paucity of fund.
The IDPs deserve to be treated better.