Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nigerian IDPs and 2015 World Humanitarian Day

“In a world that is ever more digitally connected, each of us has the power and responsibility to inspire our fellow human beings to act to help others and create a more humane world”
– UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon
Last Wednesday, August 19, was the United Nations’ World Humanitarian Day. This year’s theme was, “Inspiring the World’s Humanity.” According to the UN, the World Humanitarian Day is a time to recognise those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. The day was designated by the UN General Assembly to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe.
In Nigeria, the day was observed with seminars, conferences and roundtables. At one of such events organised by the National Emergency Management Agency last Wednesday in Abuja, the UN Resident Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr. Daouda Toure, raised a red flag about the worrying situation of the Internally Displaced Persons the country currently harbours. He was quoted as saying that Nigeria at present has the highest number of IDPs in the world. Hear him: “We need to remind everyone that 1.5 million displaced people are part of the biggest figures as we speak today in the world. So the highest number of displaced people today in the world is in Nigeria. It is not in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or in any other part of the world. It is here in Nigeria and we need to do something about it.”
There you are! Our dear country has the gold medal in refugee status in the world. What an unenviable position! Toure did not just tell us the magnitude of the IDP challenge this country faces, he charged us to do something about it. The UN Resident Representative enjoined all and sundry to help out the IDPs in any way possible. He noted that, “Many of them have lost their sources of livelihood and it will be difficult for them to find their feet. This is one reason why we should mobilise ourselves and resources to assist those directly affected by the activities of insurgents and is one of the key reasons for the World Humanitarian Day.”
Several factors give rise to refugees or IDPs in Nigeria. These include natural disasters such as flooding, desertification, erosion, and ethno-religious violence. For instance, the problems associated with cattle rustling particularly in north-western Nigeria, feud between herdsmen and farmers in north-central states such as Plateau, Benue and Nassarawa as well as the fiendish campaign of Islamic insurgents in Adamawa, Yobe, Borno and Gombe states in North-East have all jointly given this country the infamous position of being the number one home of the IDPs.
Different tiers of governments and indeed some non-governmental organisations have been trying to help ameliorate the sufferings of IDPs in Nigeria. The Federal Government through the National Emergency Management Agency has done a lot to cater to the basic needs of IDPs. They set up camps for them; they also feed and provide basic hygiene and sanitation materials for them. Organisations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Catholic Relief Services and UN Refugee Agency better known as the UNHCR have all been helping out to mitigate the sufferings of IDPs in Nigeria. It is worth mentioning that the Independent National Electoral Commission under the former chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, also ensured that the IDPs were able to vote at their campsites during the March/April 2015 general elections.
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in July 2014 also set up Presidential Committee on Victim Support Fund under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma (retd.). The VSF swung into action and held a fundraising dinner to mobilise funds to help victims of the Boko Haram insurgency and by extension the IDPs. Danjuma led his committee members to meet with incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, July 31, 2015. While briefing the President on the activities of the VSF, Danjuma said that out of the N55.92bn pledged at the committee’s fund-raising dinner last August, only N33.54bn was still outstanding, including N5bn from the Federal Government. He said the fund currently has N23.33bn in four bank accounts and that the committee received approval from the Jonathan administration to incorporate the fund into a trust fund, to “insulate it from political interference.”
It is shameful that people make pledges they don’t intend to honour. That to me is ungentlemanly and unpatriotic. I do know that many a time people grandstand at fundraising events in order to get applause. Some contractors also make pledges in the vain hope that it will give them access to contracts from which they will later redeem their financial vows. Yet the Bible in Ecclesiastics 5 verse 5 says: “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.”
I am glad that Danjuma has reiterated the need for those who made pledges at the VSF fundraiser to come forward and redeem their vows, and pledged that the committee will name and shame them if they failed to do so. It is heartwarming that President Buhari promptly directed the Head of Service of the Federation, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, to facilitate the immediate release of the N5bn pledged to the fund by the Federal Government. I do hope other debtors will toe that honourable path.
Government is obviously not doing enough and indeed cannot all alone carry the burden of IDPs in Nigeria. In the opinion of a non-governmental organisation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, the Federal Government needs to adopt the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons and domesticate the 2009 Kampala Convention on IDPs. CISLAC also want the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons to be adequately strengthened to take charge of IDPs beyond emergency situations including reintegration and provision of durable solutions. Good points!
The 2015 World Humanitarian Day in Nigeria was not all about IDPs. It was also time to remember some of our fallen heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives so that the rest of the society can be at peace. One of such notable persons fondly remembered and celebrated last Wednesday was the late Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh who helped to contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease last year. I say kudos to those who have been voluntarily donating blood, those who have been helping with care and support for IDPs, those helping accident victims to access medical care, those young graduates serving under the National Youth Service Corps and many others offering noble volunteer services. Your patriotic labour of love shall not be in vain.
As rightly pointed out by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, at the beginning of this piece “…..each of us has the power and responsibility to inspire our fellow human beings to act to help others and create a more humane world.”
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