The Senate seems not to be happy with the management of the affairs of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and has set up an eight- member ad hoc committee to investigate utilisation of funds released to the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE). The committee will also investigate alleged diversion of grains and other food items from the strategic grains reserves, National Emergency Management Agency and other sources for the IDPs. The fund, in excess of N5 billion, is managed and supervised by the Presidency through PINE, and the Ministry of Agriculture. The agencies have been accused of awarding fictitious contracts and of being indifferent to diversion of items meant for IDPs.
Ordinarily, the Senate’s move would have been commendable, at least, for its intent. But going by what happens in that legislative body, Nigerians are not too sure what the real attraction is.This apprehension is not unfounded considering the misfortune that has become part of our system where most of us in Nigeria have developed an uncanny delight in making gains out of the sufferings of the less privileged among us. When the HIV/AIDS pandemic broke out, the heartlessness of the so called Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) who built an industry around that campaign caused more damage to it than the virus itself. The victims of the flood disaster that occurred a couple of years back have not quite recovered from the callousness of their supposed compatriots.
The IDPs were caught in between the devil and the deep blue sea. As if fleeing from the marauding Boko Haram terrorists was not distraughtly enough, they fell into the hands of mercilessly commercial NGOs and their government officials’ collaborators. There is an ongoing debate as to which is worse in terms of the extent of destruction to human lives and material property. There is no official record of how many people actually died and are still dying as a result of the activities of Boko Haram. But official report from both national and international observer teams claim that approximately, 150 children die every 24 hours in the camps. The IDPs matter has been on for years, please don’t do the Math. And this is regardless of the billions claimed to have been pumped in to ameliorate the hardship of these our harassed kit and kin. Their conditions have continued to provide a study in man’s inhumanity to man. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, himself described the situation in the North East as an outcome of poor coordination, slow response and massive monumental corruption. He should know.
Before now, high level government officials, including the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, and some international organisations have had cause to worry about what they perceived as outrageous mismanagement of a horrifying humanitarian issue. Now that the Senate feels shocked enough, do they have what it takes to get to the bottom of what is, by definition, a festering sore?
In the not too distant past, we had recounted that scenes in the Hammer House of Horror pale in intensity and dread when compared with what is going on in the IDPs’ camps. The former is drama, make belief but the latter is real. This allegation of corruption on agencies of government run straight from the seat of power, The Presidency, leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It is proof, again, that President Muhammadu Buhari has plenty of work to do in the national cleansing exercise.
For the Senate, this is an ineluctable opportunity to do a public good. It must not be seen as another oversight function designed to grant its members access to a piece of the pie. Anyone found guilty of having pilfered the money meant for IDPs must be made to pay the penalty. No plea bargains, no refund. Take them straight to jail and hell. There ought to be a limit to the betrayal of public trust.