By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—A fresh report by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, has accused the Presidential Initiative on the North East, PINE, of complicity in the illegal diversion of funds donated to help Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the country.
The draft report, which UNDP issued in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, yesterday, revealed that out of N8.352 billion released to PINE in 2016, a total sum of N6.326bn was spent, leaving a balance of N2.026bn.
It, however, decried that PINE which depleted the funds, “paid less attention to the critical needs of IDPs in the areas of housing, food, education and healthcare, but rather used the bulk of the resources on contracts that were found to have immensely benefitted some public officials, including the now-suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal.”
According to the report which UNDP and NHRC made available to newsmen in Abuja, “Public procurement rules and extant federal financial guidelines were breached in the award of the contracts.
“Prima facie cases of conflict of interest were established and companies were fully paid as at a time they had not finished the assigned jobs, while kickbacks were made by some companies to others where public officials had clear interest.
“Again, out of 249 trucks carrying 10, 000 metric tonnes of Maize released by the Federal Government for the benefit of the IDPs in the six states of the North East, 65 trucks were diverted and did not reach their intended destinations.
“They were later recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission after the Senate Committee report was made public.
“But this is a development against the background of the mounting hunger and food crisis in the IDP camps.”
Both UNDP and NHRC mainatined that the overall goal of the 103-page assessment report was to ascertain the human rights and humanitarian conditions of people and communities affected by the long period of violent conflicts in the North Eastern states of Nigeria.
The assessment, which was done from 2015 to June 2017, also focused on human rights protection issues encompassing sexual and gender-based violence, access to justice, community policing and capacity of law enforcement officers for timely response to crises.
Chapter seven of the report which dealt with humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons, also reviewed the fiscal provisions for humanitarian assistance at the federal level and in some of the states under insurgency.
It read: “The findings was that governments did not use the maximum of available resources to protect the rights and welfare of the IDPs. The resources provided at the federal and state levels were paltry.
“In Gombe State, even the little provided in the state budget was not released and cash backed. Most of the IDPs lived in host communities with little access to official humanitarian support, putting additional strain on the already stretched communual health, education and social services.
“The camps were struggling to accommodate the increasing number of displaced people, who found themselves subject to unhealthy living conditions. Many children were malnourished, as adequate provisions were not made to feed them”.
More so, the report alleged that effort by the federal government to push back Boko Haram insurgents led to human rights violations by security agencies.
It also alleged that massive gender-based and sexual violations were recorded within the assessment period, adding that women and girls were sexually abused while some of them were forced into marriage against their will.
It concluded that though there has been an improvement in the security situation in the North East of Nigeria, it regretted that “there are swathes of mainly rural areas still under the control of the insurgents or where they hold sway in their hit and run guerilla tactics”.
As part of its recommendations, the report urged the federal government to “prosecute and punish all persons and organisations responsible for diverting food meant for IDPs and create more transparency around distribution of food for displaced persons”.
It further urged FG to, “Consider the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to enable all stakeholders- perpetrators, victims and survivors to openly discuss about the insurgency and how the wounds can be healed.
“Consider a comprehensive framework on Transitional Justice to address human rights violations and other concerns generated by the insurgency in the North East.
“Urgently consider the establishment of State Police and Local Policing through the appropriate amendment of the Constitution and relevant laws.
“Enact federal and state legislation on witness and victim protection.
“Maintain facilities for prompt investigation and prosecution of offenders and use the International Criminal Court mechanism and other international frameworks for the prosecution of offenders”.
As well as to, “Recuit more personnel for the Police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. This should include special measures for the recruitment of more women into the security sector and promotions to higher levels of service”.
It added that human rights training and skill building needs of armed security agencies should be assessed.
“Human rights should be included into their curricula so as to increase the awareness and protection of human rights. Continued education on human rights should also be introduced for serving officers”, the report added.