How is the internally displaced persons’ money spent? The public deserves to know

The House of Representatives committee investigating alleged diversion of funds and materials meant for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) recently uncovered the alleged use of N270 million, just to clear grass, by the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal. But the committee on IDPs and the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE), mandated by the house to investigate the allegation on how about N12 billion was spent, said it was being frustrated by the refusal of the SGF to appear before it.

It is all the more disturbing that the PINE Executive Secretary, Mr Umar Gulani, would claim that the N270 million was spent on contract for the removal of “invasive plant species along river channels and simplified village irrigation scheme (phase II) in Komadugu Basin in Yobe’’. We subscribe to the view of the House committee chairman, Hon Sani Zorro that it is unacceptable that the SGF office “would spend such a huge amount of money on the clearing of weeds while 2.5 million internally displaced victims of terror go hungry and have no shelter and medical care.”

It is recalled that after a recent visit to the IDPs’ camps in Maiduguri, Borno State, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of internally displaced persons, Professor Beyani Chaloka, said most memorably: “Food is scarce and many survive on one basic meal per day, while medical care is insufficient. Civilians also require urgent protection, psychosocial support and counselling. Camps should offer protection. Yet I am alarmed to learn that many are in fact exploiting and abusing the most vulnerable. Reports indicate that women and girls face demands for sex to access food or to leave the camps. Early pregnancy and marriage are commonplace while many do not report abuse due to stigmatisation, cultural factors and the knowledge that perpetrators can abuse with impunity.”

In highlighting the issue in an earlier editorial, we pointed out that no perceptive observer of the grave humanitarian situation in the North-east of Nigeria would be surprised by the report of the UN special rapporteur because the shameful issues that he spoke about were widespread in the last 12 months or so.

Indeed, the federal government is aware of the deteriorating conditions of the about 2.2 million internally displaced persons scattered around the troubled region and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The government is also aware that those conditions had been worsened by the unwholesome activities of its officials saddled with the responsibility of ameliorating the sufferings of the people who had been displaced from their places of abode by Boko Haram insurgents and terrorists.

Therefore, it is obvious from the report of the House committee that there is no accountability in the management of the funds for the displaced persons. Against the background that both President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Bukola Saraki recently called on the security agencies to investigate those who are feeding fat on the misery of our nationals in the IDP camps, we believe this provides an opening into such efforts. From the purported allocation of N188.69 million for Nigerian refugees living in Minawao, Republic of Cameroon to other claims, there are many questions begging for answers in the deployment of the IDPs’ funds‎.

The SGF must therefore be directed to explain the implementation framework being used to spend money. “We have been inundated by reports of diversion of materials and funds meant for the rehabilitation of the IDPs and the scandal had led to international embarrassment for the country,” said Hon Zorro. We agree with Zorro as we demand accountability on how the money belonging to the most vulnerable people in our society was spent.