Feeding Fat on Internally Displaced Persons



with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

My heart bleeds as I write this piece on the humanitarian crisis in the North-east. In spite of the global outcry following unending deaths, hunger, disease and malnutrition in the camps of Internally Displaced Persons in this region, the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE), inaugurated to give succour to the IDPs is fast turning into a big disappointment. At this point, it is germane to differentiate between PINE, inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari about a year ago and Danjuma’s Victims Support Fund. PINE is funded with budgetary allocation and domiciled in the Presidency, while the Danjuma committee relies on donations. Aside from the fact that in practical terms, PINE is not impacting on the lives of the IDPs, documents provided in the Senate on Tuesday showed that billions of Naira is being expended on frivolous things, while the IDPs wallow in hunger.

It is sickening to note that PINE is yet to show tangible result on the ground, even with over half of the money appropriated to it this year, already released. I have spent the last two days looking at the long list of funny contracts awarded by PINE as made public by the Senate. Clearly, disbursements so far made by PINE look dodgy. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, whose office is coordinating PINE, has a lot of questions to answer in this regard.

The senator representing Borno Central, Baba Kaka Garbai drew the attention of a bewildered nation to the funny contracts and controversy surrounding the activities of PINE in his motion on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. Garbai noted that rather than using the money appropriated for the IDPs and the North-east to ameliorate their problems, the focus of the disbursement had been “to feather other interest.” He cited examples of wastage and diversion of money meant for the welfare of the people to include award of N80.7 million to JMT Global Technologies for rehabilitation of a police station in Kwambir, Adamawa State; N203.357 million to another company, Josman Technologies, 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.

Garbai listed “evidences” of diversion of funds allocated for the rehabilitation of the troubled region. According to him, while the IDPs are dying of malnutrition in the various camps, contracts worth N1.268 billion were awarded to various contractors between January and March, 2016. He listed 21 contracts awarded between January 1, 2016 and April 13, 2016, saying more of such contracts had been awarded from then till date, without impacting on the lives of the IDPs.
The comprehensive list included names of contractors, purpose of contracts, amount paid, banks through which the funds were moved, the account numbers and the dates of the transactions between January and April, 2016. The document provided by Garbai showed that, for instance, N100 million was paid in two tranches to a contractor, VFS, for a “conference on rebuilding the North-east”.

Also, he said on March 30, 2016, alone, Isyours Investment Limited was paid N185.5 million in five different transactions. The payments were N37,754,900 for supply of non-food to IDPs in Bauchi; N9,355,750 for supply of food to IDPs in Bauchi; N50,299,270 for supply of food in Borno; N50,299,270 for supply of relief materials to IDPs in Borno; and another N37,754,900 for supply of relief materials to the IDPs. Garbai wondered why different transactions were carried out for similar purposes on the same day.
Another transaction criticised by the Senate was the payment of N97,630,694 for the rehabilitation of a police station in Adamawa State. The money was paid on March 31, 2016. It added: “The Senate is concerned that though on November 17, 2015, this Senate, in recognition of the dire situation in the North-east by its resolution, raised the amount proposed by the executive in the (2016) budget for the IDPs from N6 billion to N10 billion. The Senate is worried also that notwithstanding the huge budgetary allocation by the National Assembly, and the various releases by the executive, including significant donations from many donors, the situation on the ground is not cheering.”

The tone of the resolutions reached on this matter by the Senate shows seriousness on the part of the lawmakers. The Senators said they were “disturbed that the rather incoherent and largely fragmented state of the procurement process of PINE 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 Senate added: “While government is working very hard to ameliorate the sufferings of the IDPs, some other people may be working hard also to undermine this effort. The Senate is concerned about this state of affairs where so much money has been made available by government with very little to show for it, which has created and overburdened the cash-strapped states and local governments in the affected states.”

The sharp practices by those handling the welfare of the IDPs are frightening. The cold-blooded people involved in the doggy contracts and diversions must be brought to book. Already, the Senate has inaugurated an eight-man ad hoc committee, led by Shehu Sani to unravel PINE’s funny deals. Nigerians are watching this unfolding drama. I sincerely hope that the ad hoc committee will be able to ascertain how much had been released to PINE and how these funds had been utilised from inception to date. It must also unravel the mystery behind cases of diversion of grains and other food items from the strategic grains reserves, NEMA and other sources meant for these hapless IDPs.

Dasuki Must Be Allowed to Enjoy His Bail
Now that the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has ruled that the arrest and detention of former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), is unlawful and arbitrary, I hope the federal government will follow the track of honour by releasing him to enjoy his bail. The court also ruled that the re-arrest of Dasuki on November 4 last year, after he was granted bail by a court of law amounts to a mockery of democracy and the rule of law.
All my life, I have always been passionate about freedom, democracy, respect for the rule of law and good governance. I want to see criminals punished according to the laws of our land. I want to see genuine change. All these have been the crux of my battle against the detention of Dasuki. My prayer is that genuine patriots will be courageous enough to call this government to order by speaking out against the incarceration of this former NSA. Our democracy and the rule of law are on trial with the brazen disregard for court orders by the Buhari administration. Accused granted bail by our law courts are rearrested and humiliated by security operatives. The case of Dasuki is most pathetic. Our President is clearly not living by his oath to defend the constitution. We must not allow this brand new dictatorship to mature. Court orders must be obeyed by all. It is not about Dasuki being guilty or not but a fight for the rule of law and the constitution of this country. The Department of State Security Service (DSS) refused to allow Dasuki enjoy his bail, even after perfecting the third bail granted by Justice Peter Affem, who admitted him on bail on the grounds that his alleged offences were bailable. The judge further banned the EFCC from re-arresting the former NSA boss.

Earlier, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, also in Abuja, granted the ex-NSA bail on November 3, 2015, in the charge of unlawful possession of firearms, but the bail was scuttled by the SSS operatives, who laid siege to his Asokoro residence on the second day and placed him under house arrest. They eventually re-arrested him and he was later arraigned before Justice Yusuf Baba of the Abuja High Court on breach of trust and was granted bail. But the DSS also refused to obey this. Lovers of democracy must rise up against this impunity.
Human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa was apt when he remarked: “To have arrested Dasuki and taken him into custody is openly pointing hands in the face of the court. And when we get to the stage where the executive has no respect for the judiciary, we are approaching anarchy. We are approaching despotism and once people lose confidence in the judiciary, we get to the state of anarchy and lawlessness; we’d get to a stage where individuals will no longer be ready to submit themselves to the rule of law.” This is food for thought for our pro-democracy and human rights activists.

Fresh Enquiry on the Malabu Oil Saga
The Malabu Oil Saga will just not evaporate. This is because justice has not been done to the issue. The decision of the Ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives to reopen investigation into the controversial Oil Prospecting Licence 245 initially allocated to Malabu Oil is a welcome development. Recall that OPL 245 was revoked and sold to Shell and Agip for $1.1 billion. The bulk of the proceeds were allegedly not remitted to the federation account, but transferred to Malabu Oil. Just as the lawmakers said, Nigeria cannot afford to lose an equivalent of “N500bn”, the local value of the money that ought to have accrued to government, using the current Naira to 1USD exchange rate.
I have no doubt in my mind that the House ad hoc investigative committee, chaired by erudite lawyer, Hon. Razak Atunwa will do justice to the case at hand. Already, a session was held on Wednesday with some of the key stakeholders involved in the saga at the National Assembly. Shell and Agip were represented at the meeting. Shell, through its lawyer, Chief Richard Akinjide, had earlier written to challenge the jurisdiction of the committee, but he was overruled. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was also represented and it was directed to provide information on the outcome of its investigation into the deal within two weeks.
I hope the likes of former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke and former justice minister, Mohammed Adoke will appear this time around to talk about this pig-headed oil deal. The Atunwa committee must be staunch in its assignment.

When will the Corruption Probe Get to Obasanjo?
The story we have been told consistently by the Buhari administration is that for 16 years, this country was looted massively by the PDP. The Jonathan administration is already being heavily scrutinised. However, the man that presided over eight of these 16 years of looting has surprisingly been going about calling everybody a thief. I am talking about Olusegun Obasanjo here. So, when will the corruption probe get to him? I was very happy when Senator Shehu Sani called on Buhari to extend his anti-corruption war to the governments before Jonathan’s.
Sani said: “The fight against corruption, as it is now, is about recovery and arrest. If the government says the money recovered from the Jonathan administration is not enough to service the economy, then, we should move to the late Yar’Adua and Obasanjo administrations too; move to Abdulsalami, the late Abacha, Babangida and Buhari himself as a military ruler then; and to Shehu Shagari. For example, there was a Senate committee that probed the Independent Power Project where it was said that over $16 billioSn was looted.” I hope Buhari will reflect on these.