Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, has said the malnutrition situation in Borno State is a national problem that will be addressed on the floor of the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly.
Saraki, who was in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital on Monday to pay a condolence visit to the people of the state over the death of the first republic minister and first African head of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Alhaji Shettima Monguno, also took time out to visit the centre for the treatment of people suffering from severe malnutrition.
The senate president, who spoke to journalists at the Maiduguri International Airport after his visit to the treatment centre for the victims of acute malnutrition, lamented that Borno State has been left to carry too much of the burden of the Boko Haram insurgency and it has become pertinent for others to give their shoulders.
He said: “I am happy I am here with the leader of the Senate, before we break we will definitely discuss it (the Borno malnutrition crisis) on the floor and see what we can do.”
He added that: “The federal government and all agencies need to step up to the game.
“I think it is not good for a country like ours, we are a rich country, it is just an issue of organising ourselves and getting the fund to support the state government. The state has been carrying too much of the load on their own.”
He said the state government should not be left alone to carry the heavy burden but should be assisted by the federal government, private sector and wealthy individuals all over the country.
Saraki said: “We all need to put in our effort and see how we can address the (malnutrition) situation because it is the women and children that have suffered most from this. We must do our best to play a role and support the state in doing that.”
The senate president who was accompanied on the visit by the Majority Leader, Mohammed Ali Ndume (Borno South), Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), Baba Kaka Garbai (Borno Central) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central), said the visit to Borno was very important as it offered them the opportunity to see first hand, the extent of the malnutrition crisis.
He said: “It is clear that the state government has done very well. The report we heard about some of the children not being able to walk because of malnutrition but we can see all of them now well nourished, I must commend the effort of the state government in doing that.”
He however said the visit “has just confirmed that we still have a lot of work ahead.”
On how the Senate intends to assist in the rehabilitation, reconstruction and resettlement of the people and communities affected by the Boko Haram crisis, he said: “You know we are almost at the last stage of passing the law on the North-east Development Commission, we believe that the institutional framework is necessary to start to address the situation and once we pass the bill the commission can start to work and begin to register the issues of rehabilitation and reconstruction that is important.”
He added: “I believe the lack of having the proper structure to coordinate the state donations, international donations and individuals is also hampering that, all the loads is now placed on the state government, if there is an institution that is mandated to do that, then it knows it has a responsibility.”
He said: “We are very keen to have this, we are at the last stage now, we want the commission to start work soonest.”
At the treatment centre, he told the IDPs that they are not only as those that are “part of government must ensure that you feel you have government in Borno State, to carry on our shoulders this responsibility with you. To ensure that these children are not only back to full nourishment but back to rehabilitation, back to education and make them better.”
The senate president while commending the health workers for their great job of treating the malnourished persons, told Governor Kashim Shettima to bring his colleagues (governors) to see what he has experienced.