To avoid the controversy that trailed sharing of the N100m largesse to parents of Chibok girls by President Goodluck Jonathan, survivors of the Boko Haram insurgency and relations of dead victims in Borno state have outlined modalities for “effective and fair” disbursement of the funds realized in the recent appeal fund for victims. Mustapha Isah Kwaru in Maiduguri tracks the sharing formula.
The survivors in outlining what they termed as ‘effective and fair ‘modalities to be adopted in the disbursement of the funds realised in the recent appeal fund for the Victims Support Fund constituted by President Goodluck Jonathan, asked members of the committee to deal with all affected victims or their next of kins directly in order to ensure justice and equity in the disbursement of the funds.
A cross section of the affected persons who spoke to our correspondent in Maiduguri, applauded President Jonathan for taking such action, but warned that such positive initiative can only yield desired result if all victims or their family members were involved in sharing the funds without intermediaries. This they argued was imperative so as to avoid a repeat of the controversy and mistrust which marred the sharing of N100 million assistance given to the parents of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls by President Jonathan.
They said that the victims should be categorised into several groups to include those that lost their lives, or relations, those that were wounded but didn’t sustain permanent deformities. Other categories, according to them should involve victims who suffered permanent deformities, those whose suffered material loss as well as those who didn’t lost anything but were traumatised by the attacks and forced to flee their homes.
However there was disagreement on which of the groups should get more share above others, with those who lost their loved ones agitating for a lion share, arguing that no amount of cash can be equal to human lives, especially as the deceased persons didn’t die a natural death.
Malam Bukar Modu, who lost two brothers in an attack carried out by the Boko Haram militants in Damboa town, argued that those that lost their relations should be given priority in the disbursement as according to him, no amount can replace human souls and his slain brothers were the bread winners of the family. He said: “My late brothers were the ones taking care of the family, in fact they were providing all the needs of their families, before their lives were terminated and this plunged us into serious hardship. I suggest it will be fair enough if those whose relations were killed could get highest consideration in the financial benefits”.
He maintained that weeks after the killings of the two brothers, the entire family members were yet to recover from the shock of the unfortunate incident. “Their families were really traumatized because they were present during the incident in which the deceased were shot dead, we are in serious need of assistance because we can’t even afford taking care of ourselves, how then could we look after the 10 children left behind by the victims. He also suggested that under the sharing formula, there should be a special scholarship program for the children of all victims killed by the insurgents in order to minimize the burden on the relations of the slain persons. “The committee should map out effective mechanism to ensure that the education of children orphaned by Boko Haram is not scuttled, it is quite unfortunate that since the demise of their parents, many children are out of school because nobody can sponsor their education. So there is need for special intervention funds to cater for the education of these children to enable them have brighter future, failure to do so may lead to the breeding of new crop of Boko Haram insurgents”, he warned.
However, another victim, whose house was burnt to ashes in an attack in Askira Uba local government area who is now taking refuge in Biu town, Ari Kachallah insisted that there was need for the victims support fund to put more emphasis on rebuilding burnt houses so that displaced persons that were resettled at the camp established for the Internally Displaced Persons, can return to their houses and start a new life. “I think the first important step towards assisting the victims is to identify all those that lost their houses to the insurgency, the number of the affected houses and set aside a specified period within which the affected houses can be rebuilt or repaired. I suggest this should be the first assignment the committee saddled with the responsibility of managing the assistance funds should execute. This is because human beings can’t have a comfortable life without decent shelter. Most of us have been staying in IDPS’s camps for several months, under bad environment without sufficient basic needs. In fact, sometimes we have to beg before we eat. We want our houses rebuilt so that we can return and continue our life unhindered”.
However, other victims who lost their shops and places of businesses argued that more attention should be given to them since their sources of livelihood were scuttled. They insisted that hundreds of such victims were rendered jobless, plunging their families into intense hardship, occasioned by hunger and poverty.
Mr. Bitrus Musa, a resident of Izge village, who lost five shops in one of the deadly attacks launched in Askira Uba town, said the support fund should focus on his likes. Mr. Bitrus expressed worries over his pathetic condition, saying he has now been subjected to poverty having lost goods and other valuables estimated at millions of naira. “We are out of business since the bloody onslaught in our town resulting to the burning of our shops by the insurgents, since then we have been wallowing in poverty as we have not got any palliatives from the government. The support fund should as a matter of prominence, unveil urgent steps to put our category into consideration in the sharing of the support funds”, he observed.
Also commenting on the issue, a non-governmental organisation which caters for the persons affected by the insurgency, the Borno Vanguard for Boko Haram victims, urged the Federal Government to involve other humanitarian agencies in the disbursement of the support funds. Secretary of the organisation, Abatcha Mala, who spoke to our correspondent, noted that such a gigantic and vital assignment should involve relevant stakeholders in order to ensure equity and justice. “This responsibility should not be handled by government officials and appointees alone, rather all stakeholders should have a stake in it. There should be an effective division of labour so as to avoid unnecessary delay in reaching out to the distress victims, especially that many of them and displaced persons have either fled out of their various states of origin or took refuge in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad”
On its part, the Borno state government described the victims support fund initiative as long overdue, saying however, that the move will go a long way in complementing its numerous efforts to assist the victims. The state government said it had spent the sum of N1 billion this year on financial support rehabilitation and reconstruction of victims’ buildings, destroyed by the insurgents.
Governor Kashim Shettima had told members of the Presidential Fact Finding Committee on Abducted Schoolgirls of Chibok in Maiduguri, who paid him a visit, that, “This year alone, we spent close to N1 billion on victims of Boko Haram crisis. In Gwoza, we spent N200 million to reconstruct destroyed houses, markets, places of worship and provided cash to victims to feed themselves and families or start small businesses in the interim. In Bama, we spent N300m for same purpose; in Konduga, we spent N200 million”.
Similarly, about two months ago, the government had donated N10 million to another set of victims in Limankara village in Gwoza local government area of the state. Governor Shettima, represented by the then Commissioner for Commerce and Investment, Asabe Vilita, said he was deeply touched by the incident. “I have been directed to present a N10 million cash donation on behalf of the state government for the victims of the unfortunate attack; the governor would have loved to present the donation personally but could not because of his numerous official engagements.” The commissioner also presented food stuff as her personal donation to the victims of the attacks.
Receiving the donation, Baba Lawan, the district head of the community, thanked the government for the gesture and pledged to be fair in the distribution of the money. Lawan said that about 80 per cent of the houses in the community were burnt by the insurgents in addition to some places of worship. He appealed to the government to beef up security in the area to enable residents who fled to neighbouring communities in Adamawa state to return home.