US Raises the Alarm over Starvation in the North East, Buhari Sends Food, Drugs

  • Ambassador Entwistle: Nigerians are dying of starvation in Nigeria
  • Offers technical assistance, training for war against corruption
  • Sponsors seed distribution for IDPs

By YemiAdebowale in Lagos and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

The outgoing United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle on Thursday expressed strong reservations about the humanitarian crisis in the North-east triggered by the ongoing war against Boko Haram, saying that Nigerians are dying of starvation in their country, and called for urgent action from all stakeholders. Apparently reacting to the humanitarian crisis, President Muhammadu Buhari has dispatched food and drugs to the camp of Internally Displaced Persons in Bama,Borno State. Entwistle, who spoke in Lagos at the celebration of the 240th anniversary of the US independence, declared: “Nigerians are dying of starvation in Nigeria. How can that be?

The Ambassador said: “As you fight Boko Haram and secure and rebuild the Northeast, and as you strive for harmony in the Niger Delta and across the land, we will continue to help in every appropriate way. Indeed, let us all redouble our efforts on the humanitarian front in the Northeast.”

The US ambassador prom- ised that his government would continue to provide support for

Nigeria’s war against corrup- tion: “As you fight corruption, we offer technical assistance, training for investigators and prosecutors, and a commitment to ensure that no stolen funds are laundered through our banking system.

“As you improve the busi- ness climate, we encourage ex- panded trade and investment. As you continue privatisation of your power grid, through President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, we stand ready

to, among other things, help companies invest in building more electricity infrastructure, especially environmentally- friendly power generation. As you increase your commitment to healthcare and education, we support those efforts too.”

Entwistle, who described Nigeria as a great nation, said his country had maintained a robust engagement in Nigeria for many years and that the partnership runs deep.

He remarked: “We’ve worked with the Govern- ment of Nigeria on a host of issues, elections, security, fighting infectious disease, and spurring broad-based, inclusive economic growth, just to name a few. It seems like at least once a week, I stumble on some U.S.-Nigerian area of cooperation between academic institutions or civil society groups or businesses  that have been going on for decades. It’s truly remarkable. “The future of Nigeria be- longs to the people of Nigeria. More specifically, it belongs to Nigeria’s heroes – to those men and women who are brave enough to believe that they can change the world. And the United States stands with every Nigerian who believes that this country can be healthier, safer, and more prosperous. “President John F. Kennedy famously told Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Perhaps less well known is the line that followed, ‘My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.’

“I can’t wait to see what Nigerians will do – and we can do together – for the freedom of all. Not just the political

freedom you exercised last year, but freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from sickness, and freedom from corruption.

“Every step of the way, we will fulfill the commitment our Declaration of Independence made 240 years ago, to treat all of humanity, in peace, as friends. I am here – every American and Nigerian who works at the U.S. Mission in Nigeria is here – because we are committed to that endeavour.”

On his tenure in Nigeria, the Ambassador remarked: “This evening also holds special resonance for me and Pam (referring to his wife) since I will shortly end my assignment in Nigeria and I will retire from the U.S. Foreign Service at the end of this month after 35 and a half years. I always tell young Foreign Service officers that we’re the luckiest people in the world. What could be

better than representing your country overseas? As I look back at my long career, I can- not think of a better capstone than having been entrusted by President Obama with the heavy responsibility of representing him here in Nigeria, the most important country in Africa.

Entwistle said the 240th anni- versary of the US independence celebrates the heroism of the 56 men who signed the US Declaration of Independence.

He said: “Stepping forward, signing their names to a public document was a very brave thing to do. They launched an experiment in self-governance that many – if not most – thought would likely fail. They risked everything – their lives, property, and reputations.

“As I told President Jonathan when I arrived in Nigeria in November 2013, and as Secre- tary Kerry told President Buhari when they met immediately

after the presidential inaugura- tion, and as President Obama told President Buhari directly when he received him in the Oval Office at the White House last July, the people of Nigeria have no better friend than the United States. In my country, our commitment to democracy is right there in our Declaration of Independence.

“Here in Nigeria, you dem- onstrated to the world your commitment to democracy in historic elections last year. We all remember the euphoria sur- rounding that groundbreaking event. In both of our great countries, commitment to democracy is deeply woven into our status as free and independent peoples; indeed, I often describe our relation- ship as two great democracies working together to make the world a better place.”

United States Sponsors Seed Distribution for IDPs… Meanwhile, the US govern- ment, through its Agency for International Development (USAID), has delivered over 160 metric tons of seeds (maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, and cowpea) to over 6,000 households in Adamawa and

Borno states.
More than 60,000 internally

displaced persons (IDP) in the local government authorities of Madagali, Michika, Gombe, and Fufore of Adamawa, and Kaga of Borno benefitted from this effort.

According to a statement from the US embassy, the USAID collaborated with the Adamawa State Ministry of Agriculture, the American Uni- versity of Nigeria’s Adamawa Peace Initiative, and the Borno State government to ensure the distribution occurred ahead of this year’s planting season.

“These distribution efforts are literally sowing the seeds for recovery and resilience of IDPs. Working with the Nigerian government and other partners, USAID plays an active role in helping the Northeast realise its full potential.

“USAID supports several humanitarian, transitional, and longer-term development activities in Northeastern Ni- geria, totaling $133 million in collaboration with the Nigerian government at the federal, state, and local levels. Current and forthcoming activities will improve governmental capacity and performance, strengthen food security, and provide services for IDPs,” said Michael Harvey, USAID/Nigeria Mission Director.

Buhari dispatches food, drugs…

In a related development, President Buhari has intervened at the Bama Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp with the delivery of drugs and food.

A report by Borno State Government claimed that about 200 children were killed by malnutrition in a month at the camp in the heart of Bama which was recently liberated from Boko Haram.

The President’s team to Bama was led by his Special Adviser on Social Investment, Hajiya Maryam Uwais.

Uwais, in her address to the IDPs on Thursday, acknowl- edged the enormity of the chal- lenges they faced and assured them that President Buhari was concerned and committed to addressing their plights.

She said: “We are here to see for ourselves the situation on the ground and report back to the president. The Federal Government will continue to lead the efforts towards helping you as well as other internally displaced persons until you are finally resettled back to your communities.”

Uwais commended the military for their gallantry and dedication to securing and caring for the displaced persons, while acknowledging that “this is a crisis situation.” She assured that the federal government would work with the state government, interna- tional community, local partners and civil society groups to ensure that all the needs of the inhabitants of Bama camp, and the several others like it, are

speedily met.
The Senior Special Assistant

to the President on IDPs, Dr. Mariam Masha, who was also in the entourage assured that alongside the humanitarian work, the federal and state governments are also focusing on the longer-term work of ensuring that the reconstruction and resettlement is effectively hastened to enable the IDPs return to their homes and communities, and rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

She added that as the military continues its task of liberating hitherto isolated communities from the grip of Boko Haram, the scale of the humanitarian crisis is certain to increase, and called for increased sup- port from all partners and stakeholders.

The North East zonal coordinator of National Emer- gency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Mohammed Kanar disclosed that the Federal Government through the Presidential Initiative for North East had commenced the construction of 500 new tents each in some identified camps in Maiduguri as well as all the satellite camps including Bama, Dikwa, Moguno and Konduga.

The delegation was taken around the Bama camp, home to 25,000 adults and children, by the Brigade Commander of the 21 Armoured Brigade, Bama, Colonel Adamu Garba Laka.

The Commander highlighted the challenges faced in the camp, including shortages of medical personnel, shelter, water and sanitation facilities.