Giving Back to the North East


Mohammed Indimi is giving back to his community, writes Solomon Elusoji

In March 2016, oil billionaire, Mohammed Indimi, made headlines for donating a hefty sum of $14 million (then about N5 billion) to Lyn University, a school in the United States, while universities in his hometown suffered from a lack of funding. In one of his columns that month, the Chairman of THISDAY’s Editorial Board, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, described Indimi as a “Prodigal Billionaire”, as a man who features every year on the Forbes List as one of the richest men in Africa but not known to have supported any worthy cause in Nigeria. “Yet, we are talking about a man who made his money from our oil and gas industry that has, for decades, been run on the basis of man-know-man,” Adeniyi wrote.

About two months later, in May, Indimi responded by denying the value of the donation. Instead of $14 million, it was $900,000, he said, in a letter sent to Adeniyi. He also argued that his businesses have contributed billions of naira to the communities where they operate: Nigeria. These contributions, he argued, included scholarships to students in South-south universities and infrastructure development in said schools, as well as donations to support Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in North-east Nigeria, the region he hails from.

The ethics of Indimi’s donation is good straw for debate, but the strides of the Mohammed Indimi Foundation, despite the lack of a Google-recognised website, is commendable, especially in the area of alleviating the pains of IDPs.

The long-standing conflict in North-east Nigeria caused by insurgency, since 2009, has left more than two million people displaced in the region; making Nigeria the host of the world’s sixth largest IDP population.

Since the conflict began, several government and non-governmental agencies have taken up the obligation of providing protection and relief interventions to the IDPs, especially women and children. For close to a decade, various organisations, such as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its state counterpart (SEMA), United Nations, Victims Support Fund and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have rallied support from national and global partners to improve security, rebuild the states and make tremendous impact in abating the humanitarian crisis.

Borno State was the worst hit and host to most of the IDPs, with more than 1.4 million displaced people in the state, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Hundreds of thousands of IDPs have been returning to their homes since 2016, largely to the tireless efforts by organisations, federal and state governments.

Despite these efforts, the last two years have been the direst for about 120,000 to 130,000 people remaining in Maiduguri and satellite camps in Borno, as living conditions worsen day after day.

Reports by the Borno Emergency Management Agency in 2016 stated that hundreds of children had died of severe malnutrition. The case did not improve months later when in 2017 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that tens of thousands more children were endangered daily. UNICEF labelled it the world’s most under-funded humanitarian crisis. Severe malnutrition and diseases were killing the people, particularly children, faster than the insurgency.

And just when it seemed the humanitarian support trickled, a brother of the people and son of the North-eastern soil rose to the occasion.

Established in 2013, the Mohammadu Indimi Foundation was created to unlock Northern Nigeria’s potential through the alleviation of hunger and illiteracy. The founder, Indimi, is a native of Borno State and holds firm to the belief that charity begins at home. That is why the Indimi Foundation has been prioritising the North-east in its efforts to rebuild the nation one state at a time.

“All my life is dedicated to helping people in Borno State,” he said during one of the Foundation’s visit to the region. “There are more than 200 students the Indimi Foundation is taking care of in various stages of education. I visit home often and proudly take my guests along to the city. Governor Kashim Shettima has been doing wonders in completely changing the face of Maiduguri, despite its meagre resources.”

The non-governmental organisation has saddled itself with the mandate of supporting the state government with consistent and relevant social protection and economic reintegration.

“The displaced people touch my heart deeply and we will not rest until the people are settled back in their homes, with the support they need to make meaningful livelihoods and rebuild their legacy,” the founder said.

The Indimi Foundation’s first project was an intensive injection of crisis relief support directly to the IDP camps in form of food, medical supplies and cash. The Indimi Foundation also donated materials to the federal government flood relief and rehabilitation committee as part of its overarching support to persons in need. In June 2017, volunteers of the Foundation spent three days visiting more than 10 camps in Maiduguri, distributing relief items to 28,000 families from 11 local government areas who found shelter in Maiduguri IDP camps.

As part of its skills acquisition and manpower development, the Indimi Foundation has supported hundreds of students. A look at tertiary education level shows that more than 20 students have benefited from full scholarships to higher institutions outside the country. The students qualified for the opportunity of choosing any study field including Minerals and Petroleum Engineering, Agriculture, Arts, Communications, Education and Medicine.

Since inception, more than three billion naira has been dedicated by the Indimi Foundation to the support of victims of terrorism in Nigeria. However, the Foundation sees its milestones as only a tip of the iceberg and is geared to contribute more.

In May 2017, Governor Shettima revealed that Boko Haram insurgents had destroyed 156,453 houses in Borno State. The destruction included 5,344 classrooms in primary schools, 38 secondary schools and two tertiary institutions and 201 health facilities.

Speaking during a recent initiative in the state, the senior executive director of the Indimi Foundation, Ameena Indimi, revealed plans for a 100-housing unit for the IDPs with provisions for health and education facilities. “The Mohammadu Indimi Village in Bama features three rooms per building for each family. Next is a similar project in Ngala Local Government Area. We have been privileged enough to get the support of Governor Shettima. The state donated the land. We hope that other North-east governors will emulate his footsteps. Our vision is to see the remaining IDPs return to their homes and resettle. That would be the beginning of a wider initiative to do more housing units across North-east Nigeria over the next 10 years,” Indimi said.

Meanwhile, 1,000 to 2,000 hectares in Bama have been earmarked to build modern farms for about half of returnees from the IDP camps. This was revealed by the Indimi Foundation shortly before a visit to Borno by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who said that Borno State remained a very promising agricultural state despite the many setbacks it has suffered due to the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Despite the devastating degree of harm done by Boko Haram to Borno State, it has remained one of the most prepared states to face the future through agriculture,” the minister said.

Another critical area of resettlement in the state is healthcare. The state’s Commissioner for Health, Dr. Haruna Mshelia, noted in 2016 that hundreds of deaths were recorded across the camps because of malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles and severe malnutrition.

The Indimi Foundation plans to unveil a healthcare outreach programme in the North-east in partnership with indigenous and global health organisations to ensure a rollback in maternal and infant mortality, an increase in hygiene awareness among the people and provision of materials they need for their well-being.

To tailor efforts to relevant needs in the North-east, the Indimi Foundation has been conducting research through engagement with the state governments, crisis management officials, indigenous and global consultants, camp coordinators and the IDPs themselves.

In ending his March 2016 article, Mr. Adeniyi had written that “while Indimi’s charity begins abroad, it is my hope that it doesn’t end there!” It appears the billionaire took that to heart.