The much anticipated reprieve for victims of insurgency finally came with the inauguration of Victims Support Funds by the Federal Government, but most Nigerians are expressing fears that it may end up like previous committees, Ochiaka Ugwu writes.
Not Long ago, President Goodluck Jonathan constituted a “Committee on Boko Haram Terror’s Victims Support Fund” to mobilize resources and administer appropriate support to victims of insurgency and Boko Haram terror activities all over the country.
While inaugurating the committee in the Presidential Villa, chaired by a former Army Chief, Theophilus Danjuma, President Jonathan read out its terms of Reference as follows: To identify sources and ways of sustainable funding to support victims of terror activities; To develop appropriate strategy for the fund raising; To ascertain the persons, communities, facilities and economic assets affected by terror activities; To assess and determine the appropriate support required in each case; To manage, disburse and/or administer support to the victims as appropriate; To address related challenges as may be suitable; and to advice Government on other matters necessary or incidental to support victims of terror activities.
Expectedly, in pursuit of its task the Committee held a fund raising dinner to raise funds for victims of Boko Haram insurgency. When Jonathan hosted the Pakistani girl advocate, Malala Yousafzai, the decision to put in place a Victim Support Fund was made public.
Although, most Nigerians welcomed with fanfare Mr. President’s move towards easing the suffering of fellow countrymen affected by the destruction of the insurgents, some were of the view that it was a commission long overdue.
But analysts were quick to point out that the President has the reputation of setting up committees and queried whether it will not go the way of others. They said that if the President is not remembered for anything, he will be remembered for his insatiable penchant for setting up committees on every occasion of national crisis which only stops working after inauguration.
Although, proponents of Jonathan presidency always put up the defence that he does so, because of his commitment to due process and the need to avoid making hasty and wrong decisions. But a dispassionate appraisal of the series of committees set up by Jonathan evinces an escapist approach towards governance; a desperate way of avoiding responsibilities.
Just recently, Mr. President set up a committee to determine whether indeed the Chibok girls were abducted. The fact-finding committee headed by Brig General Ibrahim Sabo had other members like Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Hajia Hawa Ibrahim and Fatima Kwaku.
The committee, which was inaugurated at the State House, Abuja, was given the responsibility of providing the government with reliable information on the incident. An issue that is visible to the blind and audible to the dumb. Till date, the report of the Presidential Committee on Crises in the North-East is yet to be seen.
The North-East committee, which was set up to ‘constructively engage key members of the Boko Haram sect’ with a view to defining a “comprehensive and workable framework for resolving the crisis of insecurity in the Northern part of the country” is still green in the minds of Nigerians.
The setting up of the committee, headed by Minister of Special Duties, Malam Kabiru Taminu Turaki, ostensibly followed the recommendation of the National Security Council, which met in Abuja to deliberate on the workability of granting amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect.
Till date, Nigerians are yet to know the findings or the progress made so far.
It is disheartening that more than two years after flood caused a national disaster, victims are still left abandoned to their agonies and wounds because the liable authorities promised but woefully failed to compensate them. It is shameful that this problem is tied to lack of funds in spite of the fact that a 34-man presidential committee was set up to raise funds with a view to ameliorating the plights of the victims after the disastrous occurrence.
It would be recalled that at a fund raising dinner held at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, the sum of N11.35billion out of the targeted N100 billion was raised at the occasion for the flood victims.
According to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in their post Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report, carried out in 2012, showed that over 363 lives were lost while properties, including agricultural resources valued at an estimated sum of N2.29trillio were destroyed.
From all indications, the paucity of funds is hinged to the fact that the individuals and corporate organizations that made pledges to contribute financially to the then Presidential Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee, co-chaired by business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and foremost lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), have failed to live up to their promises. Whether these “terror victim’s” donors will redeem their pledge and not toe the way of the former, only time will tell.
The tussle over the disbursement among the communities created confusion as the people were unsure of what was disbursed and who the beneficiaries were. The problem ended up tearing the communities apart as little or nothing was done to ameliorate their suffering.
It was indeed a big problem, as it added to the difficulties of settling down the victims, most of whom are still living outside their original homes and may continue to remain there since they cannot rehabilitate their homes.
Nigerians have also not forgotten the euphoria which bearthed the inauguration of the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), especially the youth, which were said to be targeted in the whole arrangement. Mr. Christopher Kolade, a respected diplomat, was drafted in by Jonathan to give the committee a decent face, but today, SURE-P has been assigned to the dustbin of history. It has become a SURE-Way of looting our common patrimony.
All the promises made by this government when fuel subsidy was partially removed have been practically abandoned. The man whose reputation was exploited by this government in persuading Nigerians to accept SURE-P resigned ignobly, without a cogent explanation.
Apart from civil war, the Boko Haram insurgency is no doubt the worst in Nigeria’s history of disasters. The effects were so monumental that it attracted international attention. Virtually all the states in the North-East and some states in North-West and North Central were adversely affected.
Danjuma’s committee is urged to make the contributors redeem their pledges in good time to step up the much needed rehabilitation. They should not hesitate to publish the names of individuals or organizations that refuse to redeem their pledges as promised.
Given the apparent apathy of the citizens towards setting up of committees by the President, the present committee should see its task as a historic opportunity to leave indelible imprint on the sands of time. The members need to appreciate the urgency of now, and the peculiarity of their mandate. The membership of the committee offers a tempting oasis of hope that it will not be business as usual. This is however an expression of cautious optimism.
Having succeeded in raising over N80bn at its first fund raising outing many are of the view that more subsequent ones will come. The committee members must bear in mind that Nigerians are very interested in the expenditure and disbursement of every kobo of that sum. They must be told clearly that their integrity is at stake. This is not just one of those Jonathan’s committees, this is a humanitarian assignment to offer solace to victims of Boko Haram menace.
Above all, Nigerians want a committee whose outcome will not worsen the plight of the people it was meant to support. The former Danjuma’s Technical Committee that did not produce technical results in presidents hand, Orasanye’s committee whose end result did not even merge two primary schools, talk-less of two parastatals, Ministerial Committee on UNEP Report of Ogoni oil pollution, Ribadu’s Petroleum Committee, Boko Haram, Amnesty committee and many others.
This may just be another. And for the professional jobbers who mighty be smiling home with more millions.