Some governors of northern states on Tuesday paid a visit to the war-ravaged Borno State where they donated N360 million towards addressing the humanitarian challenges in the state.
Governors Aminu Masari of Katsina, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and Bindow Jibrilla of Adamawa arrived Maiduguri on a chartered flight to make the donation.
The four governors, who represented other governors of the 19 northern states presented cheques of N20 million each, on behalf of 18 of them to Governor Kashim Shettima.
The Borno State Governor is the chairman of the northern governors’ forum, and was not part of the donation.
While in Maiduguri, the governors visited one of the internally displaced persons camps and later paid a courtesy call on Mr. Shettima.
Mr. Masari, who led the delegation, spoke on their behalf.
He said they were in the state on behalf of other governors in the north to commiserate with Mr. Shettima and the people of Borno State over resurgence of Boko Haram attacks especially the killing and abduction of oil prospectors and many other innocent citizens.
“At our last meeting of the Northern Governors, it was resolved that a committee was set up to visit Borno. We were nominated as members of the committee.
“We are here to show sympathy to the good people of Borno and in solidarity with our brother, Governor Kashim Shettima. We are solidly behind him and we stand by him at this trying time.
“We have also resolved to be more united than ever before. What affects any of us, affects all. Each of the 18 northern states is donating N20m totalling N360 million. Some have already issued cheques while others are sending theirs soon.
“We will stand in solidarity with each other and we will do everything humanly possible to ensure that this kind of crisis that affected the northeast does not affect any other part of the north and by extension the country,” Mr. Masari said.
Mr. Shettima said his colleagues’ support has always motivated him to carry on despite the challenge.
“As your brother and colleague in this State, one of the things that has kept me strong despite the calamity of Boko Haram, is the genuine empathy and encouragement I constantly receive from all of you.
“Most governors have solidly identified with us even when Borno suffered its most severe neglect between 2011 and 2014. It was at this period that Boko Haram took over most of our local government areas after very audacious and bloody attacks. They killed thousands, destroyed communities, abducted and raped our sisters and daughters.
“They destroyed nearly one million residential houses; destroyed over five thousand classrooms and other school buildings. They destroyed over 200 healthcare centres. They bombed water and electricity installations. They set large scale farms ablaze, blocked major economic highways like the Ngala road connecting Nigeria with five countries. Wealthy traders and international transporters lost their trailers and became poor overnight.
“The insurgents kept on launching suicide attacks on the Maiduguri Monday Market in order to cut off economic activities in the state. They mounted pressure on the state so much that our local economy was only charged anytime salaries were paid to workers at the state level and at the University of Maiduguri which is the second largest employer in Borno. Traders were terribly affected to the extent that we had to resort to giving some sort of bailout to some of them.
“Shocking as this may sound, throughout that darkest period of large scale killings and destructions, the total support we got from the federal government was a paltry two hundred million naira. This came at time the state government was spending N600 million monthly to feed about two million internally displaced persons.
“At that time, the international community didn’t quite appreciate the humanitarian situation in the northeast. Most of the UN agencies and international partners started making major food interventions in 2016. It was actually the unfortunate Chibok abduction of April 2014 that began to attract focus on Borno. But like I always say, going through difficult times is not the worst thing in life. The worst is to be hopeless in the face of difficulty,” Mr. Shettima said.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Shettima said the $1 million worth of food donation made by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to persons displaced by Boko Haram, will not be diverted by local officials.
Mr. Shettima said the safety of the 22,600 metric tonnes of food grains donated by ECOWAS is guaranteed under the watch of National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.
In the past, cases of food diversion by local officials and IDP camp managers were reported.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how local officials were caught on video re-bagging food meant for IDPs with the intent of taking them for sale in the open market.
Some culprits who were caught trying to sell IDP food were arraigned and later jailed for committing the crime.
ECOWAS delivered the food at NEMA’s zonal store in Maiduguri.
Speaking before taking delivery of the food supply, on behalf of the north-east states, Mr. Shettima commended ECOWAS for the intervention which he said was one of the largest coming from outside the country.
“We assure you that this food will get to the right persons, and I must commend NEMA for the good job it has been doing especially by ensuring that the right people get the food and supplies meant for them. So far, there hasn’t been any case of diversion of food meant for IDPs under the watch of NEMA,” he said.
Earlier, the Acting Director of Humanitarian Affairs of ECOWAS, Florence Iheme, who stood in for the organisation’s President, Marcel de Souza, said the commission was concerned by the persisting attacks on defenceless population.
She said ECOWAS was in full support of the efforts of government to “rid Nigeria of the menace of Boko Haram and will continue to do all within its frameworks for humanitarian intervention to assist our population of concern in West Africa”.
Mrs. Iheme said the decision by ECOWAS to deliver food items worth $1 million was made late last year when the organisation’s president visited Maiduguri.
She said the $1 million worth of food supply was an addition to $400,000 and $300,000 already disbursed to the international Federation of the Red Cross and the UNHCR respectively for response to the needs of IDPs and the affected communities in the north-east as well as the Nigerian refugees in the neighbouring African countries.