By Aisha Yesufu, Oby Ezekwesili (For and behalf of #BringBackOurGirls)
Recently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia donated 200 tonnes of date fruits during the Ramadan period, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support our internally displaced persons (IDPs) during their fast. To the utter embarrassment of all Nigerians, the federal government was forced to apologize to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the ‘diversion’ of the dates which mostly ended up in markets and malls instead of at the camps of those vulnerable IDPs that the donor-country had intended.
This is the most recent of the now repeated pattern of diversions of aid meant for IDPs to other uses through massive theft and endemic corruption by federal, state and local officials. It is condemnable that public officials now frequently steal from citizens who as a result of the protracted terrorism war find themselves unfortunately destabilised and living in subhuman conditions in the IDP camps. So tragic has this latest manifestation of the Nigerian version of systemic corruption become that no one was shocked when Acting President Yemi Osinbajo confirmed that fifty percent of aid to vulnerable IDPs never gets to them because it is stolen.
Our movement is compelled once again to demand for a more effective set of actions by the federal government to reverse this base, unfortunate, wicked, unconscionable and inhuman degeneracy of some of our public officials who now habitually steal from the poor and humanitarian donors to victims of the North East tragedy. We have in the last 3 years strongly advocated a system of effective administration of resources for IDPs and other victims of terrorism.
The federal government must immediately end the impunity that has helped escalate the frequency of occurrence of these nefarious acts of government personnel. There must be consequences, punishment and stiff sanctions in all established cases of fraud in the handling of aid and public resources designated for IDPs and the reconstruction of communities in the North East. Without consequences for the perpetrators of reprehensible conducts, the rewards of crime become an incentive for repeat thefts and corruption by government officials.
The so-called ‘New IDP Food Distribution Plan’ recently launched by the federal government will be ineffectual since officials who in the past have stolen and corruptly enriched themselves with funds allocated to the IDPs and the North East remain shielded from prosecution by the same authorities. The only way to make the new distribution plan effective is to speedily conclude any investigations of all reported corruption and stealing, remove the affected officials from the chain of command and prosecute them successfully to serve as a deterrent to all.
For as long as the federal government and the Borno state government fail to do so, we as a movement join all citizens who believe that our authorities are complicit in the abominable act of ‘stealing from the dislocated poor of our land’.
Our internally displaced compatriots deserve better than this from their leaders.
The federal government must rise from the muddy embarrassment of the ‘Saudi Arabia dates saga’ and quickly restore the dignity of our country and people by swiftly taking the measures that end the subjugation of the suffering IDPs. The Presidency can signal such new resolve by immediately publishing details of the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s administrative panel investigation into the allegations of embezzlement of IDP resources by the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Otherwise, the Nigerian public can assume that nothing changes in the shameful ‘stealing from the poor and dislocated citizens’.