Senate Probes Presidential Committee, Agric Ministry over Diversion of N5bn IDP Funds

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• Upkeep of 1.6m IDPs beyond us, says Borno gov’s wife •Senate resolves to donate N21.8 m to IDPs

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Michael Olugbode in Borno
The Senate yesterday raised an ad-hoc committee to probe the rampant diversion of over N5 billion released by the federal government for the feeding and well-being of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North-eastern Nigeria.

The funds and management of the IDPs’ well-being are being supervised by the Presidential Initiative on North-east and the Ministry of Agriculture and the agencies have been accused of awarding fictitious contracts as well as indifference to frequent diversion of items meant for IDPs in the face of reports that 150 children die every 24 hours.

The committee which was asked to ascertain the exact amount of money released so far by the federal government and how the funds had been utilised, was also charged with the responsibility of conducting a public hearing and simultaneously investigating the diversion of grains and other food items from strategic grain reserves, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other sources to the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

In a related development, the Wife of Borno State Governor, Hajiya Nana Shettima, yesterday also complained that the upkeep of about 1.6 million IDPs was too much of a burden for the state government to carry and appealed to well-to-do individuals and corporate organisations to come out and support.

The senators also resolved to contribute N200,000 each for the well being of the IDPs and simultaneously commended the United Nations (UN) and other international agencies involved in the care for the IDPs for their commitment towards alleviating the plights of the victims.

The Senate tasked the committee to investigate the Health Ministry over its perceived indifference to the health conditions of the IDPs in view of their “insignificant” presence in the camps of the IDPs.

The resolutions were the offshoots of a motion by Senator Baba Kaka Garbai (Borno Central) who had revealed details of how some individuals and groups fraudulently collected N1.2 billion from the federal government for the supply of needed items to the IDPs only to either end up diverting such money or items or fraudulently re-selling such items once purchased and paid for to the government.

To buttress his allegation, Garbai listed how some unknown companies such as “VFS/Conference for Reb of the NIL” on a single day, June 1, 2016 collected N100 million in two instalments of N50 million each to organise conferences on the rebuilding of the North-east as the senators wondered what humanitarian crisis in the camps had to do with conferences.

Garbai also disclosed how a contract was awarded under the guise of supply to IDPs camps to JOSMAN technologies Limited with N203.35 million paid to its bank account “for the removal of invasive plant species along river channels and 115 hectares simplified village irrigation in Yobe.”

He also accused same company of receiving another N20.68 million for “the removal of invasive plant species and irrigation project in Komadugu, Yobe water channels” as the senators further wondered what removal of plant species from water had to do with the plights of the IDPs.

He also pointed out the payment of N117million paid to Lintex International and another N108 million to Dantex Nigeria Limited for the supply of temporary shelters in April, the figures that senators described as far cries from what the value of shelters they found in the camps was. According to Senator Abu Kyari (Borno North), the value of shelters found in the camps did not exceed N4 million as he wondered what such huge sums of money was used for.

In the motion, Garbai expressed grave concern over the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the North-eastern part of Nigeria as he recalled how United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) representative, Arjan de Wagt, said in an interview on September 9 in Abuja, that there is “no right word” yet to describe the magnitude of the crisis in the North-east.

He also recalled a recent UNICEF report that 4.5 million persons were in dire need of assistance in the North-east out of which he said one million had their lives endangered by malnutrition adding that the Financial Times also reported that about two million people “are beyond the reach of aid and at risk of starvation in North-east Nigeria.”

Lamenting how the perceived lack-lustre approach to the plights of the IDPs frequently leads to the loss of a number of children below the five years of age, Garbai explained how half of the N10 billion appropriated by the National Assembly to address the crisis in the IDPs had been released but yielded no result.
He also regretted how the Presidential Initiative on the North-east inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari last year to manage the crisis rocking the region had failed to manage the crisis especially with the award of fictitious contracts with humongous sums and nothing to show for it.

He added: “The Senate is bothered that such projects as the award of N80.7 million to JMT Global Technologies Ltd for rehabilitation of Police Station in Kwambir, N203.357 million to another company JOSMAN Technologies Limited for removal of invasive plant species along river channels and another N117 million paid to Lintex International for supply of temporary shelters with no record of these shelters anywhere.
“The Senate is further disturbed that the rather incoherent and largely fragmented state of the procurement process so far points to a vague and corrupt scheme that is not in tune with helping our people in the North-east out of their present harrowing experiences and misery.”

The senator further revealed the alleged diversion of 63 trucks of grains which he said was released from the strategic grains reserve allocated to the IDPs in Borno State by the federal government, lamenting that whereas huge sums of money had been released by the federal government, the plights of the IDPs continue to degenerate by the day because such monies did not get to their expected destinations.
Speaking on the motion, the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, narrated how a foreign agency recently lamented that the worst humanitarian crisis ever witnessed in the world might be the current situation in the North-east.

Ndume also recalled how one of the agents of the agency said having been part of the devastating humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, what occurred in Darfur would be a mere child’s play when compared with what was currently playing out in the North-east.
Furthermore, Kyari lamented that both the Presidential Initiative on North-east and the Ministry of Agriculture saddled with the responsibilities of supervising the management of North-east crisis have been supervising “fraud.”

He also disclosed the perceived non-chalant attitude of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, saying his disposition towards him and others who visited him over the crisis was insensitive and irritating.

Some other senators who contributed to the motion, warned that if the crisis was not promptly nipped in the bud by the federal government, the situation would degenerate into social crisis with hunger, starvation and diseases spread across the region, a situation he said would be worse than Boko Haram attacks in the end.

In his remark, Senate President Bukola Saraki described the situation as nothing but insensitivity to emergencies, monumental corruption and heartless attitudes of those feeding fat on the plights of the IDPs.

Saraki disclosed that only recently, the UN began moves to address the crisis through the introduction of cluster system, explaining that the UN only adopts this approach when it loses confidence in a country’s ability to handle an emergency of this nature.

He therefore announced the constitution of a nine-man committee to probe the menace and report findings to the Senate within two weeks. He advised the committee headed by Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) to ensure a thorough probe and ensure there is no cover-up.

Meanwhile, Mrs Shettima who reinstated that Borno was the worst hit state in the north east, having suffered devastating attacks by insurgents in the last six years, pleaded that ‘all hands must be on deck to cater for the needs of the displaced people’, which has become too big a burden for Borno State government to carry alone.

The governor’s wife made the appeal during visits to Dalori IDP camps I & II and Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN centre) in Maiduguri to inspect the quality of food prepared for the displaced persons especially children between ages 1 to 7.

She said the beans been prepared for the children on the camps were bought with the N2 million donated last week by Senate committee on Women Affairs and officials of the ‘Future Assured’ a pet project of wife of President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, led by Senator Oluremi Tinubu.

Her words; “I am visiting these camps to monitor the beans being purchased with the N2 million donated by Senate committee on Women Affairs and officials of the Future Assured for feeding of our children in camps, you know that beans has a high rate of protein which is good to the health of our children.

“I want to sincerely thank this committee for not only visiting our state to see our IDPs, but to also initiated weekly feeding of our children in camps with beans supplement. I am much satisfied with the quality and quantity of the beans being served in all the camps, and I want to assure that, this initiative is going to be a continuous one.

“I am appealing to individuals and coorporate organizations to assist Borno state Government with cash or kind to enable it carter for our IDPs, as government is doing enough to see that all our destroyed communities are being reconstructed for displaced people to go back home”. She stated.

She however promised to immediately shoulder the responsibility of providing firewood and charcoal or all the kitchens in the camps, as most of the women IDPs complained of lack of firewood to cook enough