L-R: Executive Chairman of Borno SEMA, Engr. Satomi Ahmad, Head of Public Health/Institution, Pharm. Ikenna Orakwue and General Manager, Corporate Affairs, TGI Group, Sadiq Kassim, presenting products to some of the IDPs

TGI Group, an international investment and holding company, recently donated a lorry load of milk, pharmaceutical and agriculture products to the Borno State Government in support of the humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons in the state. More companies need to emulate this gesture, writes Solomon Elusoji

The humanitarian crisis in the North-eastern part of the country occasioned by the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency group is still very much with us. Although the activities of the insurgents have been largely contained by the Nigerian Military, many Nigerians dislocated from their homes and families are still living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.

When people flee their homes, they often hope to return within days or weeks. In reality, for most of them it takes years or even decades as the conflict, destruction or occupation drags on; or due to fear of harassment or attack, or lack of economic opportunities, among other factors. Many soon slide into poverty, having sold jewelry or other assets, with little or no avenues to support their families. They become particularly vulnerable to extortion, discrimination and abuse. Internal displacement often marks the beginning of a long struggle at the bottom and the margins of society.

This ugly phenomenon started like a child’s play in 2009 with the arrest and killing of some of the leaders of the Boko Haram sect in Maiduguri, Borno State, by Nigeria’s security agents. What was deemed to be a reprisal attack by members of the sect against Nigeria security agencies gradually snowballed into mindless and indiscriminate killings of thousands of innocent souls as well as destruction of private and government owned properties worth trillions of Naira. The aftermath of the internecine ‘religious’ war is the displacement of millions of people from Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.

According to Wikipedia, of the 2.3 million people displaced by the conflict since May 2013, at least 250,000 have left Nigeria and fled into Cameroon, Chad or Niger. Boko Haram killed over 6,600 in 2014. The group has also carried out mass abductions, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014, an incident which sparked worldwide outrage and condemnation of the group’s nefarious activities within the country and beyond.

In mid-2014, the militants gained control of swathes of territory in and around their home state of Borno covering 20,000 sq miles in January 2015, but did not capture the state capital, Maiduguri, where the group was originally based. In September 2015, the Director of Information at the Defence Headquarters of Nigeria announced that all Boko Haram camps had been destroyed. However, victory over the insurgents remains a pyrrhic one as thousands of Nigerians have been rendered homeless and desolate as a result of the conflict, and are confined to living in camps which dot the North-eastern region. Many of the inhabitants of the camps are the most vulnerable members of the society – children and women. Regrettably, several of the children are orphans while the women are mostly widows. According to the Executive Chairman of Borno State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Engineer Satomi Ahmad, there are 69,000 widows and 54,000 orphans in its camps.

Ahmad disclosed this last weekend when a team from TGI Group, an international investment and holding company with diversified interests and investments in Africa, Middle East and Asia, donated a lorry load of evaporated milk, pharmaceutical and agricultural products to the Borno State Government in support of the humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons in the state.

According to Ahmad, “SEMA is responsible for the coordination of humanitarian activities in the state. Prior to the crisis which was about to consume us, Borno State was the Home of Peace. We however thank God that lately things have improved tremendously. It will interest you to know that the human crisis we are managing here is the third largest in the world after Iraq and Syria. The level of destruction, the quantum and magnitude of displacement is inconceivable. Borno State alone accommodates 89 per cent of the Nigerian IDPs. It is the support of good Samaritans like your organisation that has partly been keeping us going.”

Also speaking during the occasion, Mr. Sadiq Kassim, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs, who represented the Group Managing Director of TGI Limited, Mr. Rahul Savara, said that the company was committed to reducing hunger and alleviating suffering in the IDP camps and other indigent communities not only in the North-east but all over the country
“In this period of economic hardship, this is our own little way of saying that we remember and care for them, to let them know that they are not alone and assure them of our continued support.

“TGI Group is committed to bringing succour to all IDP camps in North-eastern Nigeria. We want to help reduce the suffering and pains of as many families affected by insecurity and violence in the North-east.
“TGI Group is the parent company of Chi Limited, WACOT Limited, CHI Pharmaceuticals Ltd, CHI Farms, CORMART, and many other companies in the country.

“We are here because our Group is interested in offering support to what the state government is doing to alleviate the pains of the victims of insurgency. We feel that whatever affects one part of the country affects the whole as well and we must empathise with the state government and the people in particular,” Kassim said.

Continuing, he disclosed that “Sometime last year our Board took a decision that we should do something for people in IDP camps in Borno State which is the most ravaged by insurgency and so WACOT Limited was mandated to supply 600 bags of maize to be used for feeding members of the IDP camps and recently also, Chi Limited was told, you produce evaporated milk and other milk products, these are children and people who are malnourished, you need to also do your own. So 3,000 cartons of evaporated milk have been brought while Chi Pharmaceuticals was also mandated to do their own and they have also supplied certain numbers of OTC drugs for use particularly in the camps to help maintain the health status of individuals in the camp.

“So, our objective today is actually to formally meet with you, discuss with you because TGI Group is interested and will continue to assist you. It is an engagement we want to take further and the other companies within the Group will want to contribute whatever little they can do. We want to be part of your success story; we want to be part of whatever will bring people to their normal lives.”

Commending the kind gesture of the different companies in the TGI Group – Chi Limited, WACOT Limited and Chi Pharmaceuticals, Ahmad called on other corporate organisations to emulate the Group because government alone cannot shoulder everything.
“When I received the first consignment of maize about six months ago, I was very happy and personally discussed it with His Excellency, the Governor of the state, Alhaji Kashim Shettima. He is very thankful and appreciative of what you are doing. You can see for yourself that many of the children are malnourished, I therefore appreciate your donation of evaporated milk and pharmaceutical products.”

Donations such as these are sorely needed in the camps. There have been incessant reports of widespread starvation and poor health facilities in IDP camps across the country. Last year, an international medical humanitarian organisation, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), visited a camp in Borno and raised an alarm that a catastrophic humanitarian emergency was unfolding, due to poor medical facilities and nutrition. The MSF medical team discovered a health crisis, referring 16 severely malnourished children at immediate risk of death to the MSF in-patient therapeutic feeding centre in Maiduguri. A rapid nutritional screening of more than 800 children found that 19 per cent were suffering from severe acute malnutrition—the deadliest form of malnutrition.

So, like Ahmad urged, one can only hope that other corporate organisations can take the initiative from TGI and move to lessen the weight of tragedy currently carried by thousands unfortunate to live in these times.