In Abuja Senate begins investigation into diversion of IDP food, funds

The Senate has constituted a 10-member ad-hoc committee to conduct the probe, including a public hearing on the North East humanitarian crisis.

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The Senate on Tuesday resolved to investigate the handling of the humanitarian crisis in the North-East, especially the utilisation of funds voted for that purpose.

Toward this, it has constituted a 10-member ad hoc committee headed by Sen. Shehu Sani to conduct the probe, including a public hearing on the issue.

The committee is expected to ascertain how much has been released to the Presidential Initiative on the North-East and how the funds have been utilized from inception to date.

It is also expected to investigate the diversion of grains and other food items from the strategic grains reserves, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other sources for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

The Senate also mandated the committee to investigate the insignificant presence of the Ministry of Health in the zone, and charged it to complete the assignment in two weeks.

It stated that no fewer than 4.5 million people in the zone were in dire need of assistance, adding that one million people were in danger of extreme malnutrition.

The lawmakers alleged that the Federal Government had not done enough in providing relief materials to the IDPs’ camps in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

The move by the red chamber was sequel to a motion by Sen. Baba Garbai and 18 others.
Presenting the motion, Garbai said that the presidential initiative on the North-East which was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari about a year ago to manage the crisis was yet to show tangible result.
He said that although half of the money had been released, the project was yet to show signs of yielding results.

“I am also worried that notwithstanding the huge budgetary allocation by the National Assembly, and the various releases by the Executive as exemplified in the table, including significant donations from many donors, the situation on ground is not cheering.

“Rather than use the money appropriated for the IDPs and the North-East to ameliorate the problems, the focus of the disbursement so far may have been used to feather other interests.

“All these are replete in the summary of transactions so far released.
“There are some allegations of diversion of 63 trucks of grains released from the strategic grains reserve allocated to the IDPs in Borno by the Federal Government,” he said.

In his contribution, Leader of the Senate, Sen. Ali Ndume, pleaded with his colleagues to take a firm position and demand that the right thing should be done.

He painted a gloomy picture of the humanitarian crisis in the area and queried why the Federal Government had refused to intervene.

“I beg you in the name of God, take this motion seriously; time is not on our side.
“In Borno, the situation is unfair compared to other places. The last time I tried to go to my local government, I could only access the local government headquarters but could not access my town.
“This Senate is known for standing up for Nigerians when it’s needed; I beg you to stand up.

“The suffering in Borno State is beyond any body’s imagination. Almost one hundred trucks have been diverted and these trucks were for IDPs.

“Out of the 133 trucks approved for them, only 53 have been delivered. We need to stand up and do the right thing; the humanitarian crisis in the North-East is bad.

“If you go to Maiduguri, you will not see the presence of the Federal Government. You only see foreign donor agencies,” he said.

In his remarks, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, compared the situation in the North-East to post-Nigerian Civil War humanitarian crisis in today’s South-East.

He said that as a witness to the humanitarian crisis, he would support any move to assist the victims.

“I saw the humanitarian crisis in the North-East and I wept. I have been a victim and that was during the Biafran civil war.

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“Then, we were told that the Biafran war was the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world.

“Today, we are being told that the North-East is witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis. Some people are making fortunes from the misfortunes of other Nigerians,” Ekweremadu said.

According to details on the motion, over N1 billion has been released by the Federal Government out of the N10 billion budgeted for resettlement and welfare of IDPs.

The senate alleged that some companies handling the contracts for food supply and some temporary construction work had not lived up to expectation.

The chamber listed 21 companies that were awarded contracts and paid by the Federal Government to supply food items and provide logistics for the resettlement of IDPs.

It, however, alleged that there was nothing on ground to show that the companies had made supplies to IDPs.

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