Paul Obi and Alex Enumah in Abuja
Following several complains against the diversion of funds and resources such as food items for Internally Displayed Persons (IDPs) caught up by the Boko Haram insurgency, the United Nations (UN) monday said it will investigate the matter where there were cases of diversion of funds.
The UN assured that it would probe alleged cases of diversion of funds meant to provide humanitarian assistance to victims of terrorism and IDPs in the North-east of Nigeria currently being ravaged by hunger and malnutrition occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency.
There have allegaations of increasing cases of diversion of food stuffs and other resources, with government and UN agencies unable to stop the menace.
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Mr. Toby Lanzer, while addressing journalists in Abuja on his recent visit to some communities in Borno State assured of the UN’s readiness to look into the matter and find possible solutions.
Responding to the question of alleged diversion of funds in the North-east, Lanzer said such allegation, “is not representing what we are. If we have details of cases of this diversion we would definitely look into it.”
While commending both the federal government and the Borno State government on their efforts towards “ameliorating the plights of victims of insurgency in the country despite the drop in oil production which he says is down by 60 per cent; the envoy called for more collaborated assistance from other international agencies and governments, adding that the rebuilding of the region is not something that can be tackled be a single government.
“There is no question that much more needs to be done in Bama, and indeed in other key towns of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, and more broadly across the entire Lake Chad Basin.
“The scale of the crisis in the region is staggering: nine million people need emergency relief; 4.5 million people are severely food insecure; 2.5 million people have been forced from homes,” he said.
Lanzer contended that out of the $279 million required to address the humanitarian crisis, only about $182 million has been released, making a paltry 36 per cent of the total funding needed to tackle the challenges.
He remarked that there has been considerable improvement in some areas, particularly Bama, when compared to his earlier visit in April this year.
According to him, Bama is now, not just under the control of the Nigerian authorities and now safe and stable but schools and clinics had reopened and attending to the needs of the people.
He added that aid agencies had also stepped up their engagement. For example, the World Food Programme is providing rations for more than15,000 people and the International Organisation for Migration and the UN’s refugee agency have supported families to build hundreds of all-weather shelters.
The Assistant Secretary-General however expressed optimism that following the change of leadership in the UN team more and direct assistance would reach the people.
He identified “poverty and climate change as the root cause of insurgency in the North-east and called on the Nigeria government, development and environmental organisations to synergise efforts in addressing the issues.
Apart from the humanitarian concerns to the UN, Lanzer disclosed that the re-emergence of polio was another thing is of great concern to the agency.
He expressed disappointment over the incident, describing it as a huge setback both to Nigeria and the UN. While stating that the UN was close to declaring Nigeria a polio-free nation following the absence of the disease in the last two years.
Lanzer blamed the re-emergence on the Boko Haram crisis which he said, made it difficult for aid workers to immunise children under the territory of Boko Haram.
He however, promised that the UN would scale up efforts at tackling the challenge of new cases of polio outbreak.