Internally displaced persons in Borno State, sacked from their communities by Boko Haram, have accused camp officials of continuously stealing and selling food meant for them.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in early September ordered the new Inspector General of Police to arrest all persons accused of stealing food meant for IDPs in the state.
The order was given shortly after the Nigerian Senate fumed over the same theft cases in the displaced persons’ camps.
Officials managing IDP camps within and around Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, have always denied allegations of diverting food donated for the feeding of the displaced persons, mostly women and children.
The Medicines Sans Frontier last week issued a second statement this year in which it claimed hundreds of children with acute malnutrition face the risk of dying due to lack of sufficient relief aids and water.
But in Dalori camp, one of the largest in Borno State, residents said officials continued to keep them in hunger and deprivation because food items were being stolen secretly from the stores at night and taken to the open market for sale.
This was made known when the wife of the Borno State Governor, Nana Shettima, visited some of the camps on Tuesday to monitor the special feeding system for minors which was introduced when a Senate committee led by Oluremi Tinubu visited the camps last week.
The visiting senators had donated N2 million to help the children under the age of seven feed properly.
Mrs. Shettima’s task was to ensure the mainly protein meals get to the kids.
The displaced persons, however, seized the moment to speak about their plight to the press.
Woroma Tijjani, a male IDP in his 60s, said the food being dished out was grossly insufficient.
“The measure of grains or rice they give a family, for two or three days aren’t enough for just a day. But everyday at night we see them sneaking out our food and taking them outside.”
Fatima Uba, a female IDP from Bama, said, “We know government do bring enough food into the camp and are being kept in the stores here; but they won’t bring out enough food for us to cook and eat.”
“The women in the kitchen won’t give us the raw food items to cook by ourselves. Instead, they would rather cook in the kitchen and then dish out portions that won’t be enough for us to feed.
“At night they usually connive with the store officials who would sneak out the food at night and the women would go to sell them for N800 ($2) a measure in the market.
“The officials too won’t listen to our complaints each time we tried to report the matter, because they make so much money from the sales.”
Earlier in August, there was a protest by displaced persons after which the Borno State Government banned central cooking of meals for the displaced persons
The government introduced household feeding system which allows the displaced persons to cook their own food, after receiving uncooked portions from camp officials.
In June, the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, ordered the investigation and possible prosecution of camp officials accused of stealing from the camps’ food store.
It is unclear if the investigation panel, made up of the police and other security agencies, carried out the governor’s order.
Despite the earlier reports, the camp officials still steal food meant for IDPS, the displaced persons said.
An angry IDP, Ibrahim Ali, a retired local government worker, said, “it might be very difficult to stop them because the system is corrupted.”
“They always know how to cover their dirty tracks here in the camp because government officials lack the routine inspection system.”
Mr. Ali said the corrupt officials know beforehand when an investigation or inspection team is visiting, and they would quickly make things up.
“We don’t always get access to the top officials each time they come here.”