Untold Story of State Govt Complicity
By Alijo Sylvester
The plight of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Borno State has been a subject of scrutiny by both the Federal Government of Nigeria and the international community, following the spate of deaths resulting from malnutrition related diseases.
This is in spite of the colossal amount of funds and other materials provided by the Federal Government and some international humanitarian organisations in support of the upkeep of the unfortunate IDPs vis–a–viz the unsubstantiated claims by the Borno State government of having spent billions of naira to cater for the war ravaged and displaced persons in the State.
Accordingly, the attention of both the federal government and the international community has been drawn to the sour taste and pathetic conditions of the IDPs as a result of the callous manner and inhuman treatment being meted against them by a government in which they played an active role to vote into power. The complaints of abandonment and sordid allegations leveled against the Governor Kashim Shettima-led administration by the IDPs, which spokespersons of the State Government had consistently denied, are not only absurd, worrisome, sordid, callous but most unfortunate and pathetic, to say the least.
Sorry State Of Affairs
The sorry of the state of affairs in the camps have forced the hitherto quiet and unassuming IDPs that have been pushed to the extreme situations to voice out their heartfelt complaints of near total absence of feeding, poor sanitary conditions due to the non-provision of condiments, worrisome day light stealing of the little food items meant for the IDPs by officials of the state government and what many described as deliberate neglect of their children that have been out of school for years, among others.
Curiously, spokespersons of the Borno State Government have tried to invent different public relations theories to turn the glaring cases that concerned members of the public had severally described as pitiable into “unfounded, baseless and politically motivated stories” even in the face of very glaring and clear evidences that cannot be swept under the carpet. As Hamza Abdul Musa puts it; “It is better for officials of the state government to come out boldly and tender an apology than working to cover up what has become like a billboard advertisement. What is the government trying to deny? These things are too glaring for even the blind on the street.
Following the outcries of the people as a result of series of complaints on the pathetic conditions of the IDPs brought about by the sleazing of the state resources in the name of insurgency, Forefront dispatched a team of its editorial staff to Maiduguri to carry out on the spot assessment of the situation which the Kashim Shettima administration had tried frantically to deny without success.
The situation came to a national glare when members of the Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF), (Doctors without borders) visited Bama camp and came out with gory pictures of malnourished IDPs most of whom were dying slowly from starvation in scores every day and typical of the state government, it again attempted to deny the doctors’ claim, arguing that the pictures shown were those of the rescued persons captured by the insurgents.
Embarrassed by the gory starvation story, the Presidency was prompted to invite Governor Shettima to shed more lights on the situation and shortly after briefing President Buhari, the governor returned to Maiduguri where he addressed the press and instead of addressing the issue at stake which is the starvation in the various IDPs camps in the state, Governor Kashim tried to divert attention by going into the total amount collected in cash between 2011 and 2016 amounting to N345 million, a claim many followers of events in the State roundly described as not only false but tissues of lies coming from a public office holder that swore on oath to remain truthful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Infact, amount collated shows that between 2014 and 2016, Borno state got over N5 Billion cash in support of the IDPs.
It is instructive that Governor Shettima had in the past made several similar claims that were contradicted by some of his appointees, thereby giving credence to concerned citizens in the state that are aware of developments in the state in terms of the sleazy nature of the state government. Specifically, when Grema Terab was heading the State Emergency Management Agency, the governor had told the world that the state was spending an average of N650 million monthly to cater for the IDPs across the State, but this was quickly countered Grema, who was obviously tired of the game by revealing that he only received an average of N47 million monthly as against claims of N650 million within the same period. This revelation seriously jolted the state government that had to go back to the drawing board to fashion out a new story angle.
And as part of the newly designed media strategy, Governor Shettima told journalists not too long ago that IDPs in Borno State consume an average of 1,800 bags of rice daily, Again, a lie was put to the governor’s claim as the current chairman of SEMA, Engr. Ahmed Satomi, who took over from Terab announced at a different forum that IDPs in the state consume 900 bags of rice every week. The contradictory claims set eyes rolling and tongues wagging in the state. Who then is telling the truth?
In the face of all these contradictions, the public seemed increasingly confused on who to believe between the governor and his lieutenants who appear to be making futile efforts to justify the huge resources that went down the drain all in the name of caring for the IDPs in the state.
Unseen Hands Exposed
A few weeks ago, 10 trucks of rice meant for the IDPs were discovered to have disappeared and later found in the open market and when some suspects were apprehended in connection with the disappearance, they revealed that the Deputy Governor directed them to sell the food items in the open market.
When the Deputy Governor was confronted with the allegation, he admitted giving the instruction, having equally received a verbal instruction from the governor to dispose the 10 trucks of food items to buy condiments for use at the IDPs camps. This allegation has not been denied by the governor and with such silence, the public is left to have a guess either way.
Polarization of IDPs Camps
Abdu Shallangwa, who spoke to Forefront in Maiduguri on the pathetic situation of the IDPs in the state, accused the Shettima administration of polarizing the displaced persons along ethno-religious divide by paying attention only to the IDPs of Kanuri extraction at the expense of those from Southern Borno.
For instance, he said only Dalori Camp of the IDPs gets mentioned each time government officials or Corporate donors visit the state, giving them the impression that whatever they see in Dalori is a representation of the general situation in all the IDP Camps in the State, not minding the fact that the IDPs in Biu, Damboa, Gwoza and Chibok all have their peculiar needs distinct from the Dalori IDPs.
Abdu regretted that even when IDPs from Southern Borno are camped in Maiduguri, they are usually discriminated against in preference for those of the Kanuri extraction to which Governor Shettima belongs thus quickly reminded the governor that his election was made possible by the entire people of the State and not only by the Kanuris adding that when he was being sworn in, he promised to be fair and just to all.
However, Modu Goni from Northern Borno, while trying to differ with Abdu’s analysis, argued that most Kanuris are favoured by Shettima, insisting that only those from Borno Central are considered worthy of the governor’s favour even among the IDPs, stressing that, there are over 150,000 IDPs of Northern Borno at the Monguno Camp, but not a mention has ever been made about them by the state government, much more providing for them.
Modu explained that Monguno has the largest concentration of IDPs in the state, but the government is not talking about them, even though they are also largely of the Kanuri extraction, stressing that as a people, “the IDPs in Monguno have resigned to fate, looking up to Allah to provide for them as always.
“It is an irony of a sort that with the number of refugees, Monguno would have been an area that should have received more attention, rather than camps with less than 10,000 IDPs, but the reverse seems to be the case.”
Forefront gathered that the latest of the revelations with regards to the diversion of relief materials meant for the IDPs in Borno led to the outburst by the Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who said 60 out of the 113 trucks approved by President Muhammadu Buhari were discovered missing.
The food items supplied from the Strategic Grains Reserve Store of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to help cushion the suffering and lack of proper feeding of the IDPs in Borno State on the orders of President Buhari were allegedly diverted by the contractor handling the transportation who conveyed only 53 trucks as against the 113 trucks. A visibly livid Senator Nduma, who had consistently argued that after the Boko Haram war, the latest war the people of Borno are confronted with is that of hunger, said he would not allow any diversion of food items meant for the IDPs by anybody, no matter how highly placed.
Accordingly, Senator Ndume led the other two of his colleagues from the state, Senators Abubakar Kyari and Baba Kaka Garbai, on a fact-finding mission to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who confirmed that indeed, some trucks have been discovered missing and disclosed that the contractor responsible has since been handed over to the EFCC for investigation and possible prosecution.
However, Chief Ogbeh explained that only 31 trucks were confirmed missing, as the remaining 29 trucks were still in the store of the Strategic Grains Reserve thus assured that a new contractor, Mohammed Baba Zango, has been awarded the contract to transport the remaining number of trucks to Maiduguri.
This scenario aptly captures the position of Forefront overtime that the Borno IDPs have not been given a fair deal by the state government in spite of the persistent denials by officials of the government.
Aside from Ndume’s angle of the story, all others can be blamed on the leadership of Governor Shettima for tolerating or feigning ignorance of the pathetic situation of the IDPs in the state despite the hues and cries from almost all the IDP Camps in the state.
As pointedly put by Goni, “truth is the only constant equation”, adding that all details of wrong doings by the Governor Shettima administration would be let out of the bag from June 2019 when he leaves office and no longer protected by the cover of immunity. He added that while other wrong doings by the government can easily be forgiven, he cannot imagine how a leader would allow his own unprotected people to be reduced to nothing even after suffering in the hands of Boko Haram.