President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed concern about the appalling condition of over two million internally displaced persons (IDPs), noting that over 60 per cent of them are children who do not even know their parents or where they come from.
He said his administration is prepared to continue talks with the Boko Haram insurgent group, “as long as they agree to involve international agencies like ICRC.”
A statement by the Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, on Monday in Abuja, said President Buhari spoke when he met with Mr Peter Maurer, the ICRC President, at the State House.
“We have seen the result of recent talks, 21 of the Chibok girls are back,” the President said, commending the role played by ICRC in providing immediate humanitarian assistance to the girls, who had spent over 900 days in the hands of their abductors.
The President said Nigeria’s biggest problem was perhaps the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs), noting that there were over two million of them, “made up of over 60 per cent women and children. About 60 per cent of the children don’t know their parents, or where they come from. It is weighing heavily on government.”
President Muhammadu Buhari also commended the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the release of the 21 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, urging it to sustain humanitarian interest in Nigeria.
On rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure, President Buhari said it was a priority of the government, noting that the G7 had equally indicated support, which Nigeria heartily welcomed.
“We appreciate all your efforts. I am pleased you recognised that our military is cooperating with civil authorities, and respecting humanitarian issues. It is a difficult time for Nigeria. About 27 of our 36 states couldn’t pay salaries when we came last year, and we are still struggling with that. But we will get out of it,” the President said.
The ICRC President said their operation in the Lake Chad region was the second largest in the world, after Syria, adding that there are nutritional, health, water and sanitation issues in the North-East, besides rebuilding of infrastructure.
Meanwhile, less than a week after the release of 21 of the over 200 abducted Chibok secondary schoolgirls in Borno State, by the Boko Haram, the Peace Corps of Nigeria(PCN), on Monday, donated N3.5 million for the support of the released girls and others yet to be released.
The National Commandant of the Corps, Ambassador Dickson Akoh made the donation in Abuja, on Monday, during the inauguration and signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of endowment fund in support of 21 Chibok girls, in partnership with the Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative (AFRISEI, a non- governmental organisation of Hajiya Hadiza Buhari Bello, the first daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ambassador Akoh stated that the donation was a paltry contribution by the officers of the Corps in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT)Abuja, to the welfare and rehabilitation of the girls who had suffered an unprecedented trauma while in captivity.
According to him, “we are convinced that the Federal Government needs more support now than ever before, following the recent release of 21 girls whose rehabilitation and integration into the society is very essential, which we are of the opinion that, it should not be left for the government alone, but the supported by all and sundry
“We are therefore of the view that the release of these girls should elicit the passion and humanitarian concern of all public -spirited Nigerians and charitable organization towards the welfare of these girls.
“Our organisation in partnership with the Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative (AFRISEI) has formed a formidable synergy, with a view to setting up an endowment fund which will cater for the well-being of the released girls, and it is our ardent belief that this endowment fund will greatly assist in restoring hope to these girls who we know may have lost their self-esteem due to lack of confidence in their continued productive existence as a result of their separation from their families.”
Ambassador Akoh while stating that the fund would domicile at the Zenith Bank whose account would be made public soon, named Hajiya Buhari Bello, the President of the Africa Support and Empowerment Initiative (AFRISEI),as the principal signatory to the account, and one each from the Corps and the Chibok community to ensure prudent management of the fund.
He then appealed to individuals, philanthropists,organisations and the international communities to emulate the kind gesture of the organisation, by coming to the aid of the girls, and the victims of the Boko Haram insurgents scattered all over the countries in the internally displaced persons(IDPs) camps
In her remark, the President of AFRISEI, Hadiza Buhari noted that AFRISEI was a charitable organisation committed to empowering the youth and the less privileged in job creations and skills acquisition.
She pointed out that considering the current economic recession the country was passing through.” it is necessary for government to be assisted in ensuring that fund is raised to champion the course of rehabilitating the released Chibok girls to a concluding success
“With support of our stakeholders, the Peace Corps of Nigeria and the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) under the direction of Dr Tosan Erabhor has pledged his support as our partner to carry out free medical test on Hepatitis, B&C, HIV, malaria and sugar level on the girls.