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 National Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Development Programme said on Tuesday that top government officials, including the sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, “immensely benefited” from contracts awarded for the development of the terrorism-ravaged North-East to the detriment of the critical needs of the Internally Displaced Persons in the region.
The NHRC and UNDP stated this in a 103-page draft report, titled, ‘North-East Nigeria: Human Rights Assess Report,’ which was released in Abuja on Tuesday.
They expressed deep concerns about the “paltry” resources federal and relevant state governments were providing for the humanitarian needs of IDPs.
They, however, regretted that as meagre as the resources provided were, the authorities “did not use the available resources to protect the rights and welfare of the IDPs.”
They alleged that the government, through the Presidential Initiative on the North-East, spent the bulk of the resources on contracts from which top officials, including the ex-SGF, Lawal, “immensely benefited” while less attention was paid to the critical needs such as housing, food, education, education and healthcare of the IDPs.
According to the report, public procurement rules and extant federal financial guidelines were breached in the award of the contracts while prima facie cases of conflict of interest were established against some government officials.
Companies awarded the contracts were also said to have been fully paid as of the time they had not finished the assigned jobs.
The report also stated that the food crisis in the IDP camps was aggravated by food diversion while there was also “complete absence of personnel from the Federal Ministry of Health in the IDP camps, which meant that the ministry ignored the deteriorating health conditions of the IDPs.”
It stated, “As of July 2016, a total of N8.352bn had been released to the Presidential Initiative on the North-East. N6.326bn had been spent leaving a balance of N2.026bn.
“However, PINE paid less attention to the critical needs of the 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 benefited some public officials including the now-suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.
“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 paid as at a time they had not finished the assigned jobs, whilst kick-backs were made by some companies to others where public officials had clear interests.”
The draft report, which put the number of IDPs living in Adamawa State during the assessment exercise at 147,000 and the total of people returning to their states of origin at 655,100, was released at a media consultation forum in Abuja where additional contributions were to be collected and incorporated in the final report.
To corroborate its assessment of government’s poor votes to IDPs’ humanitarian needs, the report stated that, for instance, the Federal Government made provision of only N2bn for humanitarian assistance in the North-East in 2014.
It stated that the figure increased to N6.6bn in 2015 and up to N14.3bn in 2016.
It stated that even with some other smaller amounts of money provided in the votes of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, for interventions in the North-East, as well as counterpart funding “the central provisions for the main intervention in the North-East as shown above are evidently paltry and will only scratch the surface of the required needs.”
It added that food meant for the IDP camps were also diverted.
The report stated although the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was able to recover 65 trucks of maize that were diverted, the practice of diverting food remained a cause of hunger and food crisis in the IDP camps.
It stated, “Again out of 249 trucks carrying 10,000 metric tonnes of maize released by the Federal Government for the benefit of the IDPs in six states of the North-East, 65 trucks were diverted and did not reach their intended destination.
“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.”
The assessment by the NHRC and the UNDP covering 2015 to June 2017 was presented by the lead consultant, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, who reiterated the recommendation in the report urging “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.”
The report explored the level of protection of ‘right to life and human dignity,’ ‘other civil and political rights,’ ‘economic and social rights,’ ‘children’s rights’ as well as ‘humanitarian assistance for Internally Displaced Persons.’
It stated that Boko Haram “vigorously violated” their victims’ right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and in some instances burnt down whole towns and villages” leading to deprivation of right to property.