Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday commended the pledge of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to continue providing relief assistance to millions in the North-east, despite last Thursday’s (June 28th, 2016) attack on a Its relief convoy that left two aid workers, one contractor and two soldiers injured.
In a Statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate President also called on the Security agencies and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami to investigate the allegations that some aid deliverables meant for the internally displaced persons are being diverted by officials in charge of distributing to the people.
The Senate President applauded UNICEF for not turning its back on the troubled zone, which has witnessed increased cases of malnutrition primarily amongst women and children since the Boko Haram insurgency in the region led to suspension of agricultural activities, destroyed markets, and hindered access to clean water.
“UNICEF’s decision to press on in the North East despite Thursday’s attack is truly commendable. On our part, the Nigerian government must back the resolve of our international partners with greater coordination platforms in terms of security for aid workers and thorough mandate mapping exercises to ensure that we are meeting the needs of those in crisis areas”, he said.
Saraki further reiterated his call for an immediate review of the security situation in the North East by the relevant authorities, and urged domestic and international partners to step up humanitarian intervention projects in the region to save more lives.
“It is a difficult situation, whichever way we look at it,” he said, “however, its situations like these that should prompt aid agencies on the ground to scale up their activities and coordination in order to save thousands of lives.”
With recent reports of aid relief deliverables being diverted by some officials in charge of ensuring the distribution of materials to the IDPs, Saraki urged the Security agencies to immediately set up a team of crack detectives to investigate the allegations while the Attorney General should ensure the prosecution of individuals found culpable in the misappropriation of relief items.
“Such reports are totally unacceptable. The IGP must immediately take action and bring all those that have carted away relief materials meant for the people of the North East to book.”
Late last week, unidentified assailants attacked a humanitarian convoy that was on its way to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital from Bama. The convoy included staff from UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Following this attack, UNICEF announced that it would be temporarily suspending “humanitarian assistance missions pending review of the security situation” in the North East.
In recent months, the organisation has repeatedly issued warnings that of the 244,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in Borno State alone, one in five would die if they do not receive the appropriate treatment.
Last month, Saraki led a delegation to IDP camps in Maiduguri, Borno State where he pledged that the Senate would work on expediting the passage of the North East Development Commission (NEDC) Bill as well as look into the issue of malnutrition and shortage of medical supplies in the North East.
The NEDC Bill aims to create a multi-state platform for the coordination of relief and donations to the zone.