It expressed fears that by June, about 5.2 million may be hit by hunger, adding that up to 7.0 million people in the North East need humanitarian assistance. It also said 2.5 million children are malnourished.
Reacting to a motion moved by immediate-past Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, senators said there was an urgent need to address the situation in the North East before it gets out of hand.
Ndume, had, in the motion tagged, ‘The State of the Humanitarian Relief Effort in the North East Amid High-level of Funding so far,’ said despite the 73 per cent increase in donor funding for the humanitarian response in the North East, the situation in that part of the country was still bad.
He said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), reported that over $426 million has been received as at end of December 2016, explaining that though over N5.7 billion has been donated to help the region deal with health and sanitation issues, health needs remain extreme with many people already in critical health conditions and high prevalence of severe morbidity and mortality.
He said: “There is gap between what is reported to be the level of funding response and the reality on the ground, which continue to remain dire and grave due to lack of oversight, accountability, transparency, synergy and coordination between operating agencies.
The senator stated that the way things were going, even if N1trillion were deployed, the condition of the displaced persons and the victims of the insurgency would not improve.
In his contribution, adhoc committee chairman on Mounting Humanitarian Crisis in the North East, Senator Shehu Sani, claimed that the crisis in the region had been turned into a money-making venture.
According to Senator Sani, “humanitarian crisis has now been turned into a humanitarian industry, where people make profits. Contracts being awarded in the name of humanitarian crisis do not translate to affect the people. They tell us they have built schools, but when we go there, we see a different story on the ground.
“The problem is not lack of money, but lack of sincerity on the part of the managers. We have done our best by coming out with an interim report. We will soon release the full report. Those who think they are above the law, by virtue of the offices they occupy, should wait and see.”
Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Na’Allah, urged his colleagues to put mechanisms in place to ensure that relief materials sent to IDPs were well utilised.
He said: “The Senate must decisively continue to keep an eye on the humanitarian crisis in the North East. We should find a way to coordinate the relief efforts going into the management of the humanitarian crisis in the area. When this motion is passed, we should continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations.”
On his part, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, likened the humanitarian crisis in the North East to post-civil war era in Nigeria. He said during and after the Biafran war, relief materials sent to victims were diverted to other parts of the country.
Akpabio stated: “I want to liken the situation in the North East to what happened to us after the Biafran War. What is happening to people in IDP camps also happened to us during the Biafran War. It will be hard for us to investigate non-governmental organisations. What we can do is to seek to know how monies received were spent.
“After the Biafran War, relief materials that were sent to us were left at the seaport in Lagos. Other relief materials were sent to other parts of Nigeria where they did not need them. Children suffered from malnourishment. Let us not allow this to happen to people in the North East.”
New Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan told lawmakers to go beyond probing the misappropriation and ensure that relief materials were properly disbursed.
“The committee that will handle this issue must ensure that it monitors what is received and how it is disbursed. I think we should go beyond this,” he said.
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, insisted that funds and relief materials sent to IDPs must be judiciously distributed to victims.
He said: “I believe that we are on the right path. We must show that we are responsible as a country. We appreciate the donor agencies for assisting us. We must ensure that what they give us is well spent, so that they can give more.”
Ekweremadu spoke on the need to set up an adhoc committee to look into the claims raised in the motion, which was put to vote.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu was also only person who voted “no, as she shouted ‘nay’ when Ekweremadu subjected the issue to a vote. Other senators affirmed ‘Yes,” which carried the day.
The membership of the adhoc committee will be unveiled in the coming days.
- Source – The Sun