Tobi Soniyi and James Emejo in Abuja
Rock star, Paul David Hewson, (aka Bono) and Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, yesterday met with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa to discuss the possibilities of a global partnership to address the humanitarian crisis in North-eastern part of the country through international advocacy.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo told the delegation that the federal government would welcome a global partnership that would ensure a concerted and focused international response to the humanitarian crisis in the North-eastern region.
Bono leads the ONE campaign group, an advocacy organisation with more than seven million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases especially in Africa.
It has on its board people like Mo Ibrahim, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg among others. It was founded in 2004.
Addressing members of the delegation that included former UK Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, Osinbajo said: “It is very important that you chose to come and offer some partnership. This is great and we are pleased…Partnership is certainly the way to go.”
He said no matter how prepared a country could be, handling the kind of crisis in the North-east with two million displaced people including children would prove a difficult task.
According to him, a global partnership to address the situation should be coordinated and more focused on what was required to be done, for instance, in addressing the issue of malnourished children and not attempting to do too much things at once.
Speaking earlier, the Irish-born artist, Bono, said he had visited some of the IDPs, saying “We want to be useful to you.”
Bono added that what he saw in the region was “deeply disturbing.”
He also commended the social investment programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying: “We have heard of the incredible plans, the social investment funds,” adding also that the level of transparency already seen in the administration is both “very exciting and transforming.”
Meanwhile, Dangote, monday at the meeting, disclosed that a total sum of N4.5 billion had so far been spent by the Dangote Foundation in trying to provide succour to IDPs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, which have been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He added that the foundation would continue to reach out to the victims until the end of the current programme by government to restore normalcy to the people.
Bono, who is currently in the country to draw international support for victims of insurgency in the North-east said funding to the region needed to be scaled up in order to achieve maximum impact.
Bono further lamented that of the estimated $300 million required as part of the reconstruction programme, only about $100 million had so far been realised, stressing that going by the magnitude of destruction and deprivation in affected areas, there’s need to scale up resources to cope with the humanitarian crisis.
He said working with the Dangote Foundation, he would use his ONE Campaign NGO platform to garner global support towards addressing the plight.
According to both Dangote and Bono, the new partnership will focus on the most marginalised citizens, particularly girls and women, who face the brunt of poverty and help empower those most at risk from extreme poverty, extreme climate and extreme ideology.
Specifically, Dangote said: “I am in ONE and partners across Nigeria to strengthen civil society and help the government respond to our ongoing health needs and the urgent malnutrition crisis in North-east Nigeria. ONE’s extensive network of youth groups and its 2.3 million members will help bring international attention to and action on these issues. All of us can and must do more.”
On his part, Bono, who is the leader of the rock group, U2, said: ”I am proud to be standing alongside Dangote, whose foundation works for the future of Nigeria and Africa through its young people. The youth of Nigeria, Africa and indeed everywhere are like rocket fuel- there are no limits to how far they can go, they can transform the continent-or they can blow up in your face. Harnessing their energy requires investment in their education, employment and healthcare.”
Bono said he was particularly heartbroken at the condition of displaced persons-some children never knew their parents and some severely malnourished.
A particular account was painted by Dangote, where Bono asked a woman in Borno State why she had not breastfed her child – only for the woman to strip her chest bare, revealing her breasts and telling Bono she had no milk to give to the child – once again, depicting the horrible condition of the humanitarian crisis at hand.
However, the new partnership will help amplify the calls of million of Nigerian ONE members, who have been campaigning for years on issues including health, anti-corruption and agriculture.
This year’s Make Naija Stronger campaign calls for the government to deliver on its commute, net to invest more in healthcare.
ONE campaign is a powerful global advocacy group which was instrumental in Nigeria’s debt cancellation, which led to its exit from the Paris Club and it’s incursion into the country at the request of Dangote is expected to produce more concrete results in the rebuilding of the North-east.