…Every Nigerian should donate – Executive Secretary, VSF
Barely two weeks after the inauguration of the Victims Support Fund, VSF, headed by General Theophilius Danguma by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, the VSF committee held a fund raising dinner in which a total of N54 billion was realised as pledge by banks, private companies, government establishments and individuals.
At the moment, LEADERSHIP Sunday can reveal that out of this amount, N30 billion has accrued to the committee, while an equally staggering N24billion in pledge by banks and companies has not been redeemed. This unfulfilled pledge comes as the scale of the humanitarian crises, faced by victims of terrorism in Nigeria North-eastern states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba is hitting an alarming proportion.
The VSF is meant to raise funds to be channeled towards alleviating the hardships being suffered by the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency and terrorist activities. It could be recalled that the United Nations (UN) has projected that billions of dollars was needed for reconstruction of the North-east region, whose infrastructure was severely destroyed by Boko Haram terrorists. The UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria in June this year put the figure needed to actualize the reconstruction at $279 million.
The executive director, Victims Support Fund (VSF), Prof Sunday Abogonye Ochoche, revealed to LEADERSHIP Sunday that of the N30billion, N25billion accrued from individuals who made pledges, while N5billion was the pledge of the federal government, under former President Jonathan, which was redeemed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, about N24 billion was yet to be paid by banks, private establishments and individuals who made pledges. “The banking sector took quite a while to start responding to their pledges, but because of the efforts of our chairman and the committee as a whole, the banking sector has redeemed most of its pledges except for a few million dollars outstanding,” Ochoche said.
Ochoche said the committee was working round the clock disclosing that, “We are doing all that we can to assuage the sufferings of Nigerians but even if we redeem all those pledges, it is still so small compared to the needs out there. We want to encourage all Nigerians, not just those with deep pockets, not just the big institutions, but also small institutions and small Nigerians with little means, whatever little majority of Nigerians contributed will go a long way.”
Prof Ochoche, said VSF has carried out a close and comprehensive study of people and areas affected by the insurgency with billions of naira needed for reconstruction.
According to him, “We realized very quickly that the issues were enormous. Our study of the situation revealed that we were not the only ones operating in the field. There are many others who are there before; who are still there with us and it was important for all of us to work in a collaborative manner.”
He said “We also carried out a stakeholders analysis of who is working where, and doing what, to determine where the gaps are. Following that assessment, considering the limited resources, we just had to prioritise two areas where we have comparative advantage.”
According to Ochoche, these are in the areas of economic empowerment and livelihood issues, educational empowerment, psychosocial support and health support.
“We have a number of projects on women economic empowerment. Right now we have a total of 1000 women in Maiduguri who are benefiting from our economic empowerment programme where we have made N20 million available to those women to start their businesses and we are working closely with them to organize them into savings and loan associations. We will also guide them on how to utilize the fund. We are scaling up that intervention later this year from that 1000 to
6000 women, extend it to Adamawa and Yobe States. Still on economic empowerment, we also have our agro-based intervention scheme for returning families. For families that were displaced in Yobe and Taraba states, we are making resources available to enable them begin their agricultural activities quickly” Ochoche stated.
The Victim Support Fund was originally set up as a presidential committee for the support of victims of terrorism by former President, Goodluck Jonathan, under the chairmanship of General TY Danjuma, in July, 2014. The committee was to determine ways of raising fund for the support of victims of the insurgency and to embark on fund raising for that purpose; determine who the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency are;
how they have been affected; what types of support they require and to administer the support that is required in order to bring succour.
The presidential committee, after raising some fund in line with its mandate, established the Nigerian Foundation for the Support of Victims of Terrorism. Our correspondent gathered that the Foundation is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as the operational arm of the Presidential Committee of the Victim Support Fund.
The VSF, Ochoche further revealed, is targeting a total of 4000 households, 2000 each in Yobe and Taraba states noting that “In Yobe, we are focusing particularly on two local government areas. Each household, from our assessment, consists five to 10 people. We will be targeting over 30,000 people who will benefit from the agro-based intervention”
He disclosed that under the educational intervention scheme, the Fund has focused on providing school materials and books for school children. “We started with a total of 21,300 children, covering Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and an IDP centre in Benin. We are scaling it up. This September, we will have another 35,000 children added to the programme. Beyond that also we have moved into the area of reconstruction of public structures that were destroyed. One of the worst things that Boko Haram did was the destruction of every facility they had access to. Nothing is standing in most of the affected areas and we have started with Dikwa in Borno State, where all public structures in Dikwa have been reconstructed-the schools, the hospitals, police barracks, local government secretariat, government lodges, bore holes and many others.”
Prof Ochecho said the committee was also making efforts, aimed at facilitating quick return of local governance to many of the places that have been completely destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorists.