Reports from the Senate claim that a princely sum of N5 billion is spent on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) monthly. That same report also laments that the government is no longer in a position to spend that kind of money. We are convinced that the senate is being economic with words. They are restraining themselves from using the word waste.
With all sense of responsibility, we dare say, if the government is actually deploying that quantum of resources to service the IDPs, then the effect ought to be obvious and those Nigerians buffeted on all sides by a combination of misfortunes will have a sweeter tale to tell. But that is not the case and that is why we are of the opinion that there is a lot of wastage in the system. Some middlemen public officials are corruptly and unduly taken the government for a jolly ride.
Reading the report, the IDPs themselves will be having a very good laugh for so many reasons. For them, it is yet another evidence of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. It is a further demonstration of how evil and unkind the human mind can possibly be. On a daily basis, Nigerians are inundated with lamentations from these camps about how they have been neglected, deprived and stripped of their humanity by those put in charge of taking care of them. Those cries are real. They are not crying because they were forced to leave their ancestral homes, the communal lives they are used to, the food and the culture as bad and horrifying as those are. The tears they shed are for those bitter experiences and more. They are about the disappointments they witness on a daily basis from those who they had expected would behave better and be more humane.
This newspaper will not want to be misunderstood. It is most likely that the government is releasing these humongous sums every month. It is also likely that a small fraction of it, if at all, is getting to those unfortunate Nigerians who, for no fault of theirs, are at the mercy of government officials who have decided to shut down their consciences so as to make the most of the plight of their compatriots in distress.
We have observed repeatedly that there have been undeniable reports of relief materials meant for the IDPs making their ways into the markets and sold openly. There are also reports of officials taking advantage of the most vulnerable IDPs, women and girls, by insisting on sexual favours before making available to them part of what has been provide for them by government.
Most of this money are often routed through non-governmental organisations (NGOs), some of them phoney. It got so bad that a former State Governor while in office lamented that the NGOs are constituting themselves as part of the problem. This fleecing of government in the guise of humanitarian activities, however, didn’t start today.
Under the Goodluck Jonathan administration and at the peak of the devastation in the North east, the federal government set aside the sum of N500 million for the rebuilding of schools in the area under the Safe School Initiative. Soon after the inauguration of the rebuilding project, not much was heard about the fund or plans to rebuild the schools one of which was the scene of the abduction of 270 pupils.
Under normal circumstances, that incident was enough to prick the conscience of even Satan himself. The Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, miffed at what was happening at that time, concluded that a scam was going on. He actually urged the federal government to investigate the disbursement of the fund as well as its application in terms of rehabilitating the ravaged schools. His position on the matter was based on the fact that the school had remained in a state of disrepair. Who knows what is going on in his mind now with this revelation by the senate regarding the plight of those in IDPs?
It is not debatable that these NGOs are promoted by government officials through agents who see the crisis on ground as a veritable means of settling themselves politically. It happened before. We call to mind the N500 million grass cutting contract.
But must this continue unchecked? The people in those IDPs are human beings with flesh and blood. There was a call that they should integrate themselves within the communities where they are based. That would have been plausible if not for the fact that the communities themselves are so poverty- stricken that they are barely better than the IDPs.
In our opinion, therefore, we call on the government, the disbursing body, to find out what actually is happening to the money it is releasing and how it is use, if at all. It is very important that the rest of us know.