IDPs: Robbing people in misery

THe quest by some public officials for filthy lucre knows no bounds. All avenues to cheat, defraud and appropriate the patrimony of their fellow compatriots are usually exploited with uncanny passion and sadly, a normal expectation of exercise of moral restraint in obvious cases that are akin to inhumanity is, apparently, a tall order. That perhaps is one way to capture the very disturbing allegation of monumental fraud being perpetrated by public officials whose responsibility it is to administer relief materials to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-East.

As a consequence, the  mortality  rate  in  the  camps  is intolerably high. Acutely malnourished children, a very common sight, exemplify the degree of starvation in the  camps.  This unfortunate development belies the commendable efforts of the Federal Government, the affected state governments, and some non-governmental organisations and development partners who have donated billions of naira to ensure that the IDPs have some level of comfort away from their homes.

However, it is one thing to provide relief materials; it is quite another for the materials to reach the intended end users. Complaint of public officials converting items meant for the IDPs to their personal use was rampant but things came to a head with the alleged disappearance of 71 trailer loads of rice and grains allocated to Adamawa IDPs by the Federal Government recently. The 71 trailers reportedly arrived in the state and they were received in an elaborate ceremony reportedly graced by the state deputy governor, Mr Martins Babale. But that was the end of the good news as substantial portions of the grains vanished to the thin air shortly after the ceremony.

For instance, Madagali  Local Council, the area worst-hit by the insurgency in Adamawa, was reportedly allocated two trailers loaded with 600 bags of 50kg rice per trailer but Honorable Emmanuel Tsamdu, a member of the state House of Assembly from that constituency, claimed that only 250 bags of rice was distributed. Tsamdu’s claim was reportedly corroborated by Bello Ichadi, the district head of Guluk, headquarters of Madagali Council, but with the more disturbing revelation that the 250 bags of rice were marked 50kg but each of the bags actually weighed 25kg. The implication is that IDPs in Madagali Local Council received 250 bags of 25Kg rice instead of 1,200 bags of 50kg rice meant for them! The balance is yet to be accounted for by the official administrators of the materials. This is reportedly the sad fate of a huge quantity of relief materials including medicaments sent to the IDP camps across the North-East.

Recently, an international humanitarian organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) raised the alarm about a catastrophic humanitarian emergency in Bornu State, where many children were dying of starvation. A rapid nutritional screening of about 800 children at Bama Hospital IDP camp reportedly carried out by MSF revealed that 19 per cent were suffering from severe acute malnutrition, the deadliest form of malnutrition. Ironically, much effort and enormous resources had been committed to avert this turn of events. But the alleged activities of some unscrupulous and greedy government officials have caused such effort and huge resource deployment to pale into insignificance. It is so bad that some IDPs are urging the donor agencies to monitor the distribution of items they bring before exiting the area.

It is difficult to fathom how the mind of some Nigerians work and how inhuman they can get, so much so that they have no qualms profiting from the misery of their fellow human beings. Some of the IDPs who are being robbed have lost their loved ones; they are only lucky to still be alive. The artisans among them can hardly practice their trades and farmers have missed several productive farming seasons, so the question of creating their own wealth does not arise. They live on handouts which many of them are not proud of, but they have no choice. They do not talk of buying cars or building houses, yet some unconscionable public officials are stealing materials donated by government and public spirited individuals, foreign countries and international organisations just to enable them to survive. This is the height of callousness, criminality and unimaginable breach of ethical and moral boundaries. It is unacceptable and  must be resisted with vehemence.

Government’s commitment of resources and its goodwill in attracting relief materials from donor organisations to the IDPs are positive developments. However, it should go further to show very keen interest in what goes on, including the administration of relief materials in the various camps. The case of the missing 71 trailers of rice in Adamawa should be thoroughly investigated, and the thieves identified and brought to book. Official measures should be crafted to rein in the tendency by some desperate public officials to engage in corrupt activities, the circumstances and the dire consequences of their ignoble actions notwithstanding.