Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Senate President Bukola Saraki on Saturday vowed that the Senate would investigate the severe hunger and nutrition crisis rocking the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in the North-east.
Saraki also called on the Nigeria Police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other law enforcement agencies to immediately commence investigation into alleged diversion of food aid deliveries, noting that government officials and contractors should be held accountable for how truck-loads of provisions meant for the IDPs camps mysteriously got missing.
“Anyone that is found to be diverting the food aid deliveries should be investigated and brought to book if investigations prove their participation in these vicious schemes. Profiting from a complex humanitarian crisis is unacceptable. The people of the North-east have suffered enough indignities in the past four years from the marauding Boko Haram terrorists. Stealing food meant for starving children is beyond the pale and only adds insult to injury”, Saraki stated.
The threat to probe the situation was the fallout of last Thursday’s protest by hundreds of women from various camps in Borno State who took to the streets and barricaded the Maiduguri-Kano-Jos Road over alleged diversion of foods meant for them.
Saraki described the development as desperate as he called for better coordination amongst government and international aid agencies managing the affairs of the camps. He also emphasised the need for Nigeria to quickly operationalise a more effective and efficient humanitarian response infrastructure to address the dire situation.
“It is important that we all focus on eliminating the coordination, access and food supply issues hindering us from successfully feeding the millions of IDPs. This is particularly important for the many children who are dying daily from starvation. It should break every Nigerians heart to know that our own women and children are enduring such horrendous hardships”, he stated.
He restated the call for an international summit on the North-east that would be similar to the one held in London for Syria where about $10 million was raised. He also disclosed plans to move a motion on the situation in the North-east when the Senate reconvenes from recess next month.
He said the motion would lead to the establishment of a Senate ad-hoc Committee on the North-east adding that the motion would also call for the conduct of a public hearing that would enable the Senate to use its oversight powers to review Nigeria’s humanitarian policies and hear testimony from witnesses representing the government, humanitarian experts and the IDPs themselves.
“The situation in the North-east has been underreported and under-resourced for far too many years. In terms of scale and complexity, the situation in the North-east is direr than South Sudan. Yet, apparently, the crisis appears not to be sexy or star-studded enough to attract greater international attention and support,” he stated.