A major plank of the Buhari administration was the pledge to end the insurgency in the North-east. It met on the ground a war against Boko Haram that had been badly handled and allowed to metastasize, leaving tens of thousands dead and millions displaced.
While the moves to improve security and defeat the insurgents have recorded significant success, the care of internally displaced persons is where the current government has come up gravely short.
As it stands, hundreds of thousands of people who have managed to stay alive in spite of Boko Haram’s reign of terror over the last 5 years are now at risk of starvation.
In July 2014, the Victim Support Fund set-up by President Goodluck Jonathan raised N58.79 billion in pledges to help the displaced, overshooting its target of N50 billion. In November of that same year, the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) was also launched to focus on the broader reconstruction of the region.
The plight of internally displaced people has also drawn a lot of sympathy from within and outside the country. Many have sent foodstuff and other essentials to the area to help alleviate their suffering, and continue to do so.
None of these initiatives have helped significantly because the government that is supposed to alleviate suffering, makes it worse. Food meant for starving people is stolen, either by police or officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). It led Borno governor Kashim Shettima to call for a probe.
As yet, there has been no one brought to book for the theft of aid materials. The results of this impunity are devastating. In June this year, Doctors Without Borders visited the Bama IDP camp and discovered 24,000 people in critical health, 15,000 of which were children. They also discovered mass graves dug for those who had already starved to death.
It prompted a visit by the Federal Government to the camp. A delegation led by Maryam Uwais also had in it senior officials of the Borno State Government, officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, the State Emergency Management Agency, and representatives from the United Nations. It led to a declaration of a nutritional emergency on July 1st.
Despite that declaration, conditions have not improved. At the end of July, Doctors Without Borders again said that 500,000 people outside Maiduguri are in desperate need of food, shelter, water, and medical care.
When aid is available, accessing the camps securely is a challenge. On July 28th, the UN briefly suspended aid deliveries to Bama after its convoy was attacked.
The ongoing suffering of many in the North-east is the latest stain on the Nigerian state, and every resource available must be mobilised to reduce it. It should be pursued with the same vigour as the anti-corruption war.
Defeating Boko Haram without making sure the victims are taken care of, means that the job is incomplete at best. It is the responsibility of the Nigerian government to make sure those who survived Boko Haram do not wish they were dead.