By: Inuwa Bwala
Personal curiosity, much more than professional instincts compelled me to investigate the issue, which was casually mentioned during a discussion with friends in Maiduguri.
In fact, I was in the state for an entirely different matter, but decided to utilize my leisure to satisfy my curiosity and possibly expose the flip side of humanitarian services, as epitomized by Non-Governmental and Humanitarian Organizations.
I was to be on the trail of the issue for nine months, coming into Maiduguri often and interviewing people, without giving away my real motives.
I am one of those who hold Non-Governmental Organizations rendering humanitarian services in the North East, particularly Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States in very high esteem. Without their interventions, one could imagine what would have been the humanitarian situation in the region by now.
I understand there are about 148 such organizations operating in the region, most of whom came in response to global appeals since the outbreak of the Boko Haram hostilities.
NGOs, as they are popularly known have always been handy, assisting with survival needs like food, clothing and medications to the millions of displaced people, in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
But for a few, which activities have been queried by the authorities, NGOs have been of tremendous assistance to citizens. It has offered jobs to many hitherto unemployed youths and have exposed the sufferings of the people in the region to the world.
Beyond the good jobs they are doing, is a sordid story of inappropriate relationships and immoral acts amongst desperate youths seeking for jobs and some officials of the NGOs who seem to be ruled by their high libido. Female job seekers and even those who may have been engaged are more vulnerable, according to investigations, and highly placed officials of the NGOs seem to be the culprits.
Securing a job with a Non-Governmental Organization, NGO, in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa these days is a status symbol amongst the hundreds of thousands of jobless youths and even retirees, who are still physically strong. It is not in doubt that with the current unemployment rate, NGOs have given relief to hitherto jobless people, who seem to have lost hope in ever securing a job.
It is therefore a vogue amongst young school graduates and even students still in tertiary institutions in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, to secure a job with a non-governmental organization. To secure such jobs require little protocol, since such organizations rely more on practical output, more than paper qualifications.
This explains why so many young men and women find it easier to secure these jobs. The pay is good and places them above their counterparts working in government.
A curious look into the affairs of some of the NGOs however reveals that, beyond the good services they render to victims of insurgency, some of their officials may have been engaged in acts of immorality, especially with their indigenous female staff and applicants seeking for the jobs.
My investigators interviewed several workers and applicants seeking for placements in the NGOs, and some of their confessions were not too palatable.
Part of the questions they took to town include, but not limited to: who introduced them to the particular NGOs, how did the job eventually come by, were there conditions to fulfill before the job was secured, what are the schedules and whether such schedules bring them intimately close to their bosses. What were their relationships with their bosses in the office? What type of assignments take them away from their offices with their bosses and how were they accommodated while on such assignments? Has anybody in their organizations ever asked them out for lunch or dinner or for any activity outside their schedules? What were their responses to such advances and what were the reactions to their responses?
Their experiences vary, but many of them confessed that they have often been approached by their bosses for sexual favors.
One hot afternoon, sitting in a quiet corner in a popular restaurant in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where workers of some Non-Governmental and Humanitarian organizations go to eat, I had the initial clue, to verify my findings. A young lady who I know to be married and working with an NGO, strolled in, arms locked with a male partner, who I later found out to be her boss.
After exchanging banters with the proprietress of the restaurant, the man introduced the lady as his wife. They did not seem to mind my presence or that of two others who were also waiting to be served. They hugged and proceeded to a another corner, where they were being paid special attention by the proprietress herself.
On enquiries later, I was made to understand that they work for an NGO where the man is the boss and the lady works under him. They were regulars at the eatery. Further inquiries revealed that the man has been lavish with the lady, and they always go on field trips together. Their relationship was an open secret even to coworkers and nobody seems bothered, even though they know the lady is married.
Very often, I sit out very late on hotel lobbies and you see young ladies coming to enquire about the rooms of NGO bosses. To my mind, they were going to either fulfill conditions for employment or were paying the dues for their continued stay on the job.
Whichever is the case, I have come to the painful conclusion that, Non-Governmental and Humanitarian Organizations have become necessary evils in our quest for survival in the face of Boko Haram. We cannot dispense off their services, but somehow our daughters have to pay the price on our behalf.
We are caught in a seeming web, between NGOs that provide humanitarian services to millions of our citizens affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and others supplying food and arms to the same Boko Haram who inflict the injury in the first place. More sordid is that which leaves our daughters at the mercy of fun seeking individuals, parading themselves as bosses of such organizations.
Inuwa Bwala is the Publisher of National Trail Newspaper.