BY Abimbola Akosile
Chairman, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s recent pledge to invest N2 billion to create jobs and end hunger for Borno State residents living in Internally Displaced Peoples camps (IDP), no doubt will ameliorate the pains of Boko Haram victims, as well as provide them a means of livelihood.
The gesture is not surprising given the large heart and philanthropic antecedents of Africa’s richest man and his foundation, the Dangote Foundation towards eradicating poverty and diseases in Nigeria. Dangote is aspiring to become Africa’s biggest philanthropist.
The Foundation, last week commenced the disbursement of N400million micro-grant to 40, 000 indigent women in all the local governments in Lagos State. The disbursement is a continuation of grassroots poverty alleviation strategy of the Foundation that Dangote set up in 1993. The programme will cost the Foundation N10billion. A total of six states have so far benefitted from the programme.
During his visit to the Dalori and Bakassi IDP camps in Borno State, Dangote promised to spend N2billion on the IDPs to enable the State government to provide social amenities to residents.
He said: “I am here to see the IDPs by myself. This is my first time to visit IDPs in Borno but I want to assure you that it will not be the last. We shall continue to work with the State government to make sure the IDP camps are hunger-free.”
Dangote, who assured that his foundation would shoulder the costs of food for the IDPs during the Holy month of Ramadan, added: “Our partnership with Borno State aims to create jobs for our people. Also I assure you that the entire food for IDPs during Ramadan will be given by the Dangote Foundation to assist the State government.”
Dangote said apart from the funds and food items that will be donated by his company through the Dangote Foundation, he would explore avenues to drive investments and production in the war-torn states to promote entrepreneurship and create opportunities for the people to work and earn a decent living in the course of time.
“This is not the first time I am coming here and it will not be the last. So far, we have expended about N1.2 billion in efforts to alleviate the suffering of IDPs across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.
“The first major challenge is the physiological needs of these people, and food, nutrition rank right on top of that ladder. So we will first make serious effort to ensure that hunger is eliminated from the IDP camps and thereafter, we will begin to make effort to create jobs and boost entrepreneurship.
“The effort to create jobs and boost enterprise in this case will not be about making money or returning investment, rather it will be primarily to create opportunities for the people,” he said.
Dangote expressed concern over the living conditions of the estimated 1.7 million people displaced in the state, making it the third place globally with the highest number of displaced persons after Syria and Afghanistan.
The Executive Director of Dangote Group, Halima Aliko-Dangote, stressed that her father, apart from the direct support he would be giving to the people, would also pull his partners and contacts in the private sector to collaborate and support the people of the state.
“As executive director on the board of the foundation, it was very important for me and others to actuality visit the IDP camps in Borno State ourselves. This experience has solidified our commitment to support the people during this difficult time,” she said.
The Managing Director and CEO, Dangote Foundation, Mrs. Zouera Youssoufou, stressed that after dealing with the issue of hunger, the group will begin to boost education for children in the camps as well as create opportunities for enterprise.
“This is not the first time that I have visited the IDP camps and the Dangote Foundation’s commitment to easing the suffering of our fellow Nigerians is total.
“As early as next week, we will be meeting with the governor and his team to immediately start to bring relief and begin to think of medium-term strategies especially around education. “We will deploy all within our capacity, both man and material, to ensure that we improve the lives of these people,” she said.
Dangote Foundation has a history of alleviating the conditions of people in IDPs. The Foundation in 2011, gave the sum of N364 million to IDPs across Kaduna, Bauchi and Gombe states after the post-election violence.
The crisis had rendered many homeless while in another sum of N100 million and N60 million were respectively donated to victims of flood disaster in Lagos and Oyo States in 2011. Dangote Foundation donated N39.34 million to those IDPs displaced by the communal clash in Benue state in 2014.
While N42.5 million was used in feeding 5000 IDP households across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states last year, N100 million and N50 million were respectively contributed to the Appeal fund raised by Daily Trust to cater for the IDPs in the Northeast and to support the Adamawa Peace Initiative all for the IDPs. The sum of N1 billion was also recently pledged to Victim Support Fund for IDPs across the Northeast.
Dangote in 2012 donated the sum of N2.5 billion, the highest as an individual, to the fund for Flood Relief and Rehabilitation in 2012. The fund helped in resettling and rehabilitating of Nigerians displaced by flood in 22 states of the federation. Dangote through his Foundation travelled to all the states ravaged by flood and provided relief materials and funds running billions of naira.
The Foundation’s family empowerment programme meant to compliment the efforts of the government at all levels is targeted at the disadvantaged and vulnerable women and youths with a one-off N10, 000 cash transfer to boost household income generation.
Dangote who is concerned over widespread poverty among the people especially the youths and the women at the grassroots through his Foundation instituted a scheme that would help in addressing the menace.
Consequently, the Dangote Foundation came up with a micro grant scheme aimed at empowering the grassroots dwellers with funds to help them undertake petty trading so as to lift their economy. Already, 256,500 women in states such Kano, Jigawa, Kogi, Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe have benefited from the scheme that is expected to move round all the 774 local government areas across the nation.
Speaking at the launch of the Lagos end of the scheme, he said, “I started my foundation, Dangote Foundation back in 1993, based on the simple premise that to whom much is given, much is required……that has meant for me looking at the poor that suffer amongst us and being compelled to bring some relief.”
“I believe that supporting social and economic change through investments and interventions that improve the lives of the less fortunate is what will make a positive difference in the growth of my nation,” he added.
He said the foundation is focused on health and nutrition as to reduce the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease through access to quality healthcare and nutrition with a particular emphasis on children. The Foundation drives activities in this area via building primary Health care centers, drilling boreholes for WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) programs, Partnerships with the Gates Foundation and various States to eradicate polio and increase routine immunization coverage, building a diagnostic center and operating theaters in the Murtala Mohammed Hospital in Kano and malnutrition eradication program across 13 states in the North.
The foundation’s education goal is to reduce the number of out-of-school children, support talented under privileged young people to achieve their potential, and educating girls and women on health related issues while activities already carried out include: Building classrooms, Scholarship programs, upgrading infrastructure across various universities, alternative education programs out of school IDP children, behavior change communication programs targeted to girls and women.
The donation to IDPs camps is part of its Disaster relief programme, to be responsive to people affected by disasters and helping them get back on their feet. Activities executed include: Support to stopping the spread of Ebola in Nigeria, support to the IDP crisis situation in Nigeria, support to flood victims in Nigeria, earthquake relief in Nepal, and support to the Republic of Niger during the recent meningitis outbreak
The Economic Empowerment programme is geared towards supporting the poor in sustainably increasing their income. The Micro-grant Programme is one component of the economic empowerment programmes of Dangote Foundation
However, for the first time since the programme started, the beneficiaries in Lagos are also to be given hand held mobile devices through Airtel telecommunication, while disbursement would be via electronic payments
The programme, according to Dangote is to cover at least 1000 women in each of the 774 local governments in a bid to assist the federal government in the onerous task of poverty reduction by equipping the vulnerable women with some money to help them start a trade to improve family life. However, the number of beneficiaries in Lagos has been doubled in each local government in other to reach out to a larger population of women.
“We have chosen to partner with State governments to support women because in Nigeria, as in other developing countries, they bear the burden of poverty. And it is through their economic activities from the home, the market place or the farmlands that they keep the family, the community going meeting basic needs.
“Our research at Dangote Foundation shows that just a little push can help establish, sustain or grow several types of economic activities by our women. We believe these small grants will improve the women’s businesses and the wellbeing of their families and communities.
“This is one of the goals of Dangote Foundation’s Community Development Services”, he stated.
The Dangote Foundation, he said, sends its wishes to the women who will benefit from our grant and indeed from other government initiatives. It is their efforts and business success that will strengthen family and community bonds that are needed to transform this great state and this great country.”
Dangote Foundation’s guiding principles is to provide humanitarian relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters. In the past, the Dangote Foundation has provided relief materials and food to victims of civil strife in Nigeria. Since its establishment in 1993, it has worked to provide drinking water and health facilities in partnership with various Nigerian state governments and through grants to individuals and groups for health, education and economic development projects.