Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Muhammad Bello, has reportedly turned down food items donated by the Dangote Foundation for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Abuja.
The Foundation, according to a THISDAY source, had taken the gift items, including sugar, salt, spaghetti, rice, danvita, and wheat meal worth millions of naira to the minister’s office yesterday but was bluntly rejected by him.
All entreaties to make him realise that the items are meant for distribution to the needy like those in the IDP camps fell on deaf ears as Bello was said to have stated that he was not hungry and didn’t solicit for any donations.
In a swift reaction, however, the Special Adviser to the FCT Minister on Media, Mr. Abubakar Sani, said there was no truth in the report that the FCT Administration (FCTA) rejected the purported gift from Dangote Foundation to the IDPs.
According to Sani, “FCTA is not aware of any donations and therefore, not in the position to neither reject nor accept the said gift items.
“I asked who saw the said gifts and the answer was no one did,” he said.
In the same vein, the Director of Public Relations, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Abuja Office, Mr. Ishaya Chonoko, also said that the agency was not aware of such donations.
Chonoko said: “If the normal procedure was followed, we should be aware of such donations, but as far as we are concerned, no donations of such was made, at least to the best of our knowledge.”
The Foundation owned by the richest man in Africa, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, as part of its mandate to give especially in the holy month of Ramadan for the indigent and the vulnerable in the society, has the tradition of donating money and food materials to the less privileged and victims of other disasters across the country.
“The Ramadan supplies are delivered to the 36 states, including the FCT yearly and the governors assign a contact person to receive the items which are delivered in trucks on behalf of the governor before distribution to the identified beneficiaries by the state government,” an official of the Foundation who did not want to be named said.
Sources close to the Foundation in Lagos insisted that the FCT Minister did reject the donation to the surprise of the representatives of the Foundation even when it was explained to him that it was for the less privileged.
Informed sources at the minister’s office indicated that the letter for the donation came while the minister was having a meeting with his directors and they all corroborated the fact that the donation was an annual gift from Dangote Foundation for the less privileged but he would not listen to any explanation as he insisted the food items be returned.
Some residents of the FCT expressed dismay at the action of the minister as they condemned his disposition to the plights of the IDPs who the items were meant for and were actually on the lookout for it having been informed earlier that the foundation would soon put smiles on their faces.
Callers at the FCT Secretariat at Area 11, it was gathered, were said to be very displeased on hearing of the minister’s rejection of the items, which they believed would have made the IDPs in the Abuja camp feel the good side of Ramadan.
According to them, the reason behind the minister’s rejection of the food items cannot be justified because those in the IDPs’ camp are hungry and some of them are dying because government could not cater for all their needs.
A Dangote Foundation source confirmed that as at the time of filing this report, about 31 states had already taken deliveries of their items and some had started the distribution. It was learnt that 106 trucks of food items are on their way to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital in fulfilment of Dangote’s promise to make this Ramadan fulfilling for the IDPs in the states.
The latest donation of food items was coming shortly after the Foundation donated N2 billion for the rehabilitation of the IDPs in various camps in Borno State.
The source said the Dangote Foundation had in the past supported victims of disasters with monetary and food items. Food items were donated to the victims of post 2011 elections violence in some parts of the north, while victims of flood disaster across the country were also helped with various food items and other relief materials.
According to him, the Foundation also took its charity abroad when in 2015, donated $1 million to support the government of Nepal to rehabilitate the victims of two devastating earth quakes that ravaged the country that year in quick succession.
The Foundation also donated $500,000 to the government of the Republic of Niger to support victims of meningitis outbreak in the country.